Crusaders on tight schedule to bounce back
The Crusaders will delay their only team practice this week to accommodate their returning All Black wider training group players.
Rather than follow the usual protocol of training two days before Friday night’s match against the Waratahs, coach Todd Blackadder has instructed his team to gather on Thursday.
The All Blacks are currently holding the second of their three-day training camps in Mt Mauganui and will not return until Tuesday evening.
Eight of Blackadder’s starting team are involved and there was some frustration last week when the return flights to Christchurch were delayed. Yet he is optimistic he is not taking a risk by revamping his training schedule.
‘‘Even though it is not that physical (at the camp) it is a mental (drain),’’ Blackadder said. ‘‘These guys, when they come back, they don’t actually get a day off. They don’t get a breather, so we are going to train on Thursday.
‘‘It is probably not the most ideal preparation but we think it is the best for this group at this time of the season.’’
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has recruited 38 men for the camp but the six Highlanders players will join the squad late after travelling back from Perth.
Thursday’s are usually reserved for the captain’s run at AMI Stadium. The change in routine means they will now train at the stadium, rather than Rugby Park.
Questioning the need for two camps at such a crucial time of the season can lead to some lively conversations with the All Blacks management. Hansen is adamant they are necessary and has defended his decision to select such a large squad.
Blackadder, for his part, has no option but to get on with business following last weekend’s 28-19 loss to the Chiefs.
‘‘They will have all of Wednesday off just to mentally re-fresh. We will now do a lot more than what we normally would a day before the game.
‘‘But we have just got to do what we need to make sure the detail of the game-plan and everyone is aligned again.’’
Blackadder is hopeful tighthead prop Owen Franks and hooker Corey Flynn can overcome the hamstring strains that ruled them out of the Chiefs match.
Apart from Dominic Bird replacing the injured lock Sam Whitelock, few other starting changes are likely for this must-win encounter.
‘‘No, not if I can help it,’’ Blackadder confirmed. ‘‘Continuity and consistency is the key for these games. We trust these guys to do the job.
‘‘The disappointment after the Chiefs game was real because they had an opportunity to win. Their heads are definitely in this competition. When I look over the footage again, it is just the detail. Just a couple of charge-downs and we didn’t take a few other opportunities.’’