Fijian flyer adds to Crusaders wing riches

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2014

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Nemani Nadolo
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
FINAL PIECE: The last of the Crusaders players Nemani Nadolo joined the squad yesterday from Japan.

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Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo has completed the Crusaders' complement to add to a selection conundrum later in the Super rugby season.

The 26-year-old, who has been playing in Japan, arrived in Christchurch last weekend but won't be considered for Friday's opening round encounter with the Chiefs at AMI Stadium and may not play for the first month of the new campaign.

Assistant-coach Aaron Mauger said yesterday the Crusaders now had their full squad - "minus Dan Carter [who is on leave till later in the season].

"Nemani joined us [on Sunday], it's great to have him involved. The boys are already chucking a bit of banter his way, so he'll settle in really well."

But Mauger said Nadolo's addition gave the Crusaders five quality wings to select from. Former All Black Zac Guildford is no guarantee to start, with Johnny McNicholl and wider-training-group wing Nafi Tuitavake in impressive pre-season form."

Mauger sees no reason to fast-track Nadolo till the new recruit is ready.

"The key thing with Nemani is not to have too much expectation early on. He's got a whole lot to get used to. He's transitioning out of Japanese club footy into a pretty high-pressure environment. We don't want to set him up to fail. He's probably three, four, five weeks down the track.

"He's just come off the back of a season so we want to give him a chance to heal [from some niggles] and get the body right. And there's all the content and mental prep he's got to get himself through, as well."

Nadolo, 1.95m and 130kg, tweeted he had had "a very productive day on my first day on the job at @crusadersrugby HQ. Really loving the environment. Boys hav[e] been very welcoming."

Guildford, who is headed to French club Clermont Auvergne at the end of the Super rugby season, played for the Crusaders Knights at Lincoln last weekend. But that does not mean he is out of contention for the starting side to play the Chiefs which head coach Todd Blackadder will announce tomorrow.

"It's probably just be a reflection of how well some of the other guys have gone," Mauger said.

"They got the lion's share against the Hurricanes. Johnny McNicholl has been outstanding and Nafi Tuitavake has got his body ready go now. He's fit and has managed to shake off a bit of an Achilles injury he's been carrying for three years.

"Looking at Nafi, we've always known he's had the goods and it's starting to show now he's had a consistent run.

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"Robbie Thompson has been outstanding in the pre-season, as well. Chuck Zac and Nemani in the mix and we've got five real top-quality wingers to choose from.

"Zac's actually done really well. He's in a good space and he's performing well at training. Last week, we picked the team that's ready to go, purely on performance in the two trials beforehand."

Mauger said the midfield mix was also far from settled with All Black Ryan Crotty an option either at centre or second five-eighth along with new recruit Reynold Ley-lo, Adam Whitelock and Tom Taylor, who is also in a three-way contest for Carter's No 10 jersey.

Slade, who trained yesterday after a slight niggle sustained in Levin, is expected to get the nod to play the Chiefs, with Taylor at second five-eighth and Crotty at centre.

- The Press

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