Kieran Read ruled out of ACT Brumbies clash
Concussion has again forced Kieran Read to withdraw from the Crusaders.
No 8 Read was hopeful of captaining the Crusaders against the Brumbies at AMI Stadium on Saturday afternoon but failed to convince medical staff he had fully recovered from the head knock that forced him to leave the field against the Chiefs on April 19.
It is the second time this season Read has had to withdraw because of a head injury; he also failed a concussion test during the March 28 match against the Hurricanes and missed the fixture against the Lions a week later.
Crusaders doctor Deb Robinson, a former All Blacks doctor, is widely respected for her decisions around player welfare and despite Read being close to making a full recovery she will have informed Todd Blackadder he wasn't to risk his star forward.
Following the IRB's recent drive to clean up their act with regards to brain injuries coaches have been instructed to not even consider placing players' health in jeopardy, even if they appear to have fully recovered from the mildest of concussions.
This was reinforced by Blackadder soon after Mike Fitzgerald's swinging arm forced Read out of the Chiefs match in the 30th minute: "We don't know the seriousness of it all just yet but we will take every precaution to make sure he is fit and healthy, believe me," Blackadder said.
"We do those things really well."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will also be closely monitoring Read's recovery, given a fortnight has passed since his most recent head knock. The Crusaders didn't play last week because they had the bye.
Blackadder's concerns at losing the 2014 IRB player of the year should be eased by the expected return of All Blacks captain and openside flanker Richie McCaw, who hasn't played in two months since fracturing his left thumb against the Blues at Eden Park.
Earlier in the week assistant coach Dave Hewett hinted that McCaw could be named on the bench - but that was before Read was ruled out.
Blackadder has already stated he is reluctant to shift the in-form Matt Todd from openside because he considers that to be his best position; the vastly experienced McCaw is also more versatile and can cover blindside flanker or No 8.
Jordan Taufua's ball carrying proved valuable in his first start - at blindside - against the Chiefs. With Read unavailable, Blackadder may want Taufua to again be in his back row so he can provide some punch on attack.
That could leave McCaw to start at No 8, with Luke Whitelock to provide loose forward cover from the bench ahead of older brother George, who again may not be required to suit-up.
If McCaw is named in the reserves second five-eighth Ryan Crotty will captain the side.
Crotty led the Crusaders against the Lions in Johannesburg on April 6, a match they won 28-7.
With Kieron Fonotia (who is expected to have recovered from a hamstring strain), or possibly the massive Nemani Nadolo (who plays No 13 for Fiji), considered as centre options, Tom Taylor is expected to drop out of the starting side.