Tom Taylor 'in the mix' for fullback role
Sean Maitland could return to the Crusaders at fullback but coach Todd Blackadder has not ruled out using Tom Taylor to fill the gap if Israel Dagg cannot front against the Hurricanes.
Taylor is still a likely replacement for hamstrung All Blacks star Dan Carter at first five-eighth.
However, Blackadder and co-coach Daryl Gibson have not finally resolved who will wear the No 10 and No 15 jerseys at Addington's AMI Stadium on Saturday. The selection picture has been clouded by an injury to utility Tom Marshall, who deputised for Dagg at fullback in the first two Super Rugby rounds.
Blackadder said Marshall, who hurt his shoulder playing in a club rugby final in Nelson last Saturday, "won't be in the squad at the weekend".
"I don't think he's dislocated it but he's certainly done some damage to it, so we'll have to get a MRI [scan]. We've got to weigh up the fullback options, along with knowing that we've got a No10 spot to fill as well [with Carter unfit to play this weekend]," he said.
Maitland started the season on the right wing but was dropped after the May 12 loss to the Melbourne Rebels and replaced by Adam Whitelock.
Blackadder said Maitland had "played a lot of ITM Cup rugby at 15" and "the likelihood is" he would fill the fullback berth against the Hurricanes.
Taylor, a specialist five-eighth, played at fullback for the first time in his career in his rookie Canterbury season last year, and acquitted himself well.
Blackadder said he was "in the mix" for the No15 jersey this weekend.
If Taylor is shifted to the back, Tyler Bleyendaal, who started the first three games of the campaign at first five-eighth, could be recalled at No10. Bleyendaal has not started a Super Rugby game since the March 9 defeat to the Chiefs in Napier.
However, Blackadder and Gibson would "trust him to" step up.
There are few selection posers in the pack, despite No8 Kieran Read likely to be unavailable. Blackadder has openside flanker Matt Todd, the man of the match in the North-South game, or All Blacks wider training squad member Luke Whitelock, to bolster the back row.
Luke Romano is set to start at lock after a promising test debut in last Saturday's 60-0 annihilation of Ireland.
"Luke's only had one game in the last three weeks, so he'll be looking to back up. So is Sam [Whitelock].
"Sam's probably had the most game time, along with Richie [McCaw] of the returning guys [from the All Blacks squad]."
Tom Donnelly, who played in the South Island's victory over the North Island on June 10, is also refreshed and Blackadder has two fully fit front rows with hooker Corey Flynn recovering from the rib injury that forced him off the field before the three-week test series hiatus.
"I got through a little bit of scrummaging today and a little bit of controlled wrestling," Flynn said yesterday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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