Dagg ditched by Crusaders for Blues match

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 13:57 26/02/2014
Israel Dagg
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax Media
DITCHED: Israel Dagg has been ditched from the Crusaders starting side to face the Blues at Eden Park on Friday night.

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Israel Dagg has been ditched from the Crusaders starting side to face the Blues at Eden Park on Friday night but Richie McCaw has passed a fitness test on a sore calf.

Fullback Dagg, who battled with his passing and handling in last weekend's 18-10 loss to the Chiefs at Christchurch Stadium, has been relegated to the bench to allow Colin Slade to start in the No 15 jersey.

This will be Slade's first appearance for the Crusaders since 2010. He represented the Highlanders for the following three seasons. Slade was not considered for last week's match because of a tender calf muscle.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has also replaced Tyler Bleyendaal with Tom Taylor at first five-eighth after the former missed all five penalty kicks at goal.

Right wing Johnny McNicholl, who made a series of mistakes in the first half but also pulled off a memorable try-saving tackle on Aaron Cruden, has been dropped to make way for wider training group player Rob Thompson.

There is still no sign of All Blacks wing Zac Guildford who once again is unable to make the reserves.

Last year Thompson was unknown in Super Rugby circles. A former Manawatu rep, who is more known for his midfield exploits, he shifted to Canterbury in a bid to crack their NPC side.

The only change to the forward pack is the return of Kieran Read at No 8 in place of Luke Whitelock.

Blackadder has remained loyal to blindside flanker George Whitelock. 

Rather than re-shuffle his back row to bring in Matt Todd at No 7, and shift McCaw to the other side, Blackadder has elected to keep the disruption to his loose forwards to a minimum.

McCaw needed to pass a fitness test this morning to be picked for the side and showed few signs of the bruised calf muscle he suffered against the Chiefs.

Midfielder Ryan Crotty, who also hurt his calf in the opening match, has also been passed fit.

All Black Wyatt Crockett remains on the bench to allow Tim Perry, who made a fine Crusaders debut against the Chiefs and was part of a strong scrum, to retain his place at loosehead prop.

Crusaders: Colin Slade, Rob Thompson, Reynold Lee-Lo, Ryan Crotty, Nafi Tuitavake, Tom Taylor, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (c), Richie McCaw, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Tim Perry. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Luke Romano, Matt Todd, Willi Heinz, Adam Whitelock Israel Dagg.

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