Todd Blackadder backs Richie McCaw break

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:30 24/09/2012
Todd Blackadder
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ
TODD BLACKADDER: "The only thing we are involved with in New Zealand is hard work and I don't think anyone would give their guys anything that hasn't been passed or ticked off."

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Todd Blackadder is banking on Richie McCaw's departure to reinvigorate the Crusaders.

McCaw's decision to activate his six-month sabbatical next year, which will see him skip the All Blacks' three-test series against France, means he will play just two Super Rugby regular-season matches for the Crusaders before the playoffs on July 19.

But there is no chance of Dan Carter also taking leave, with Crusaders coach Blackadder reiterating he will be available.

"He is staying. Richie is the only one taking a sabbatical," Blackadder said.

Following their post-season reviews after the semifinal loss to the Chiefs, Crusaders management saw a need to change their in-house methods if they are to win their first title since 2008.

Blackadder hopes having a new captain in Kieran Read and no McCaw will force the players to take more responsibility.

Although McCaw has grown into his role as All Blacks skipper since replacing Tana Umaga in 2006, his enthusiasm in his eighth season in charge of the Crusaders may be waning.

"It is a big loss when you lose someone of this calibre [McCaw] but I also look at it, too, that maybe it is the best thing for the Crusaders," Blackadder said.

McCaw has already had his share of absences from the Crusaders in recent years. In 2011 he made just seven appearances because of a fractured foot bone and this season was limited to nine after recovering from surgery on the same bone.

It is possible McCaw has captained the Crusaders for the final time.

Although signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union until 2015, Blackadder believed it would be in McCaw's interests not to captain both the All Blacks and Crusaders.

Even if McCaw didn't take his sabbatical, Read would have been appointed skipper to lighten the load.

Matt Todd will be an automatic selection to wear the No 7 jersey in McCaw's absence and Tasman's Shane Christie, given his sound form in recent seasons, may be recruited as back-up.

Although McCaw will return late in the campaign, the NZRU will allow the Crusaders to recruit an extra player.

McCaw finalised his decision to take the sabbatical with his management team before the All Blacks met the Springboks in Dunedin on September 15, but Blackadder said the idea was hatched earlier during an informal chat. "For a guy like him, who has done it all, he was just getting mentally fatigued and tired and there were some classic signs.

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"You just need to look at the last 12 months, with the pressure to win the World Cup and then playing all the way through.

"Now he can't go to the supermarket without signing an autograph. I would suggest the thought of taking a break is what is really motivating him at the moment - knowing at the end of this year he is going to get a really good break."

- The Press

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