Brewer backs Todd's call to stick with Crusaders

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 05/05/2012
Matt Todd and Richie McCaw
JOSEPH JOHNSON/Fairfax NZ
STICK CLOSE: Matt Todd (left) and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

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Former All Blacks flanker Mike Brewer backs Matt Todd's call to stick close to Richie McCaw and suck up the knowledge in Christchurch.

McCaw, who has again been named on the Crusaders bench for tomorrow afternoon's Super match against the Reds at AMI Stadium, will start against the Rebels in Melbourne next weekend.

That could mean Todd's future in the No7 jersey is limited, although he may earn a stay of execution if coach Todd Blackadder rests Kieran Read and starts McCaw at No8 in Melbourne.

With McCaw convalescing for the opening eight rounds following post-World Cup foot surgery, workaholic Todd has proved a capable replacement at openside flanker and will make his 10th consecutive appearance against the Reds.

It is a familiar storyline to last year; while McCaw was battling the stress fracture to a metatarsal bone in his right foot, Todd, in his rookie year, thrived.

Despite competing for a start against the man who is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world Todd, who is contracted until the end of next year, is ignoring suggestions he should move elsewhere.

"Before I re-signed the coaches said if I performed I would continue to get opportunities. It's a long year and look at our three props, they are quality players and are all getting games," Todd said.

It's a sentiment Brewer agrees with.

"Matt Todd shouldn't leave the Crusaders," Brewer, who played 32 tests as a back rower between 1986 and 1995, said.

"That would be like asking whether Tom Taylor would benefit from going away from Dan Carter. For Matt it's about being patient. It's about learning, getting opportunities and when you get them to play at a consistently higher level."

During last year's World Cup Todd was put on standby by the All Blacks and briefly joined the squad ahead of the semifinal against Australia in Auckland while McCaw nursed his damaged foot.

Graham Henry preferred not to select a specialist openside to back up McCaw in his World Cup squad, with Adam Thomson and Victor Vito providing cover.

Brewer, who opposes suggestions Todd and McCaw should play in a left-right combination because they both like to get over the breakdown ball, had no gripes about Todd's omission.

"I don't think it did him much harm – there is no need to rush him and I think he will be the No7 to take over from Richie.

"Now I think there is an opportunity to span out Richie's career."

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With blindside flanker Jerome Kaino injured and already signed to play in Japan, new All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is likely to select either Thomson or Vito to replace Kaino and leave McCaw at No7.

But Brewer said he would be tempted to start the Crusaders back row of Kieran Read, George Whitelock and McCaw.

"That would be from a familiarity point of view and I would probably have Thomson on the bench. George Whitelock could start or be completely out."

Brewer compares Whitelock's no-nonsense game to that of his old All Blacks' back row team-mate Alan Whetton.

"He's another `AJ'; he doesn't do the flash stuff but is a work horse, likes to do the dirty work and complements McCaw and Read."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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