Read can spot Henry's input into Blues

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2013
Kieran Read
IAIN MCGREGOR/ Fairfax NZ
RETURN TO ACTION: Kieran Read is set to make his comeback from injury against the Blues.

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Kieran Read suspects Sir Graham Henry is guilty of lacing the Blues' attack with rocket fuel.

Read, who won a World Cup medal under former All Blacks coach Henry, senses the wildfire injected into the Blues' backline is not just a reflection of the influence of new head coach John Kirwan.

Although Henry now operates under the shadowy guise as "technical assistant" with the Blues, he has already had to tug the reins and remind himself Kirwan is the boss.

Yet it is obvious Henry, who last prepared the Blues to face the Crusaders when he was on Peter Sloane's coaching staff for the 2003 final at Eden Park, has not been idle.

After watching the Blues upset the Hurricanes 34-20 last weekend, new Crusaders captain Read noted Frank Halai, Charles Piutau, Francis Saili and George Moala's hard-running antics during the bonus-point victory appear to reflect Henry's influence.

"I think the way they backed themselves and gave licence to the players, that's probably how ‘Ted' likes to use guys," Read said.

There were the same lessons No 8 Read, an intimidating sight when carrying the ball, absorbed when he played under Henry for the All Blacks between late 2008 and 2011.

"He's one to install a lot of confidence in players and has his way of doing that. I guess within the structure they do play it allows them to showcase that talent they obviously do have - they are natural athletes. Hopefully we can make them go a bit as individuals and away from their game plan."

Henry's obsession with organising defences is likely to have been recognised by Kirwan. Against the Hurricanes the Auckland-based side conceded just two tries. One was a controversial penalty try when Charles Piutau batted the ball dead while being challenged by Julian Savea.

Todd Blackadder's decision to name Israel Dagg on the left wing has raised eyebrows but the Crusaders coach is unrepentant.

With Zac Guildford still receiving counselling for his alcohol issues and Kurt Baker (hamstring) and Johnny McNicholl (back) injured, Blackadder preferred to switch All Blacks fullback Dagg to the wing and start Tom Taylor at No 15 - a position he also appeared in during Canterbury's NPC campaign last year.

"He's [Dagg] the world's best fullback, there is no doubt about that," Blackadder said. "But it was either that or we put Tom Taylor on the wing and I think Israel has had a wee bit more experience there. We don't see this as a permanent move."

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Tom Marshall, the preferred fullback when Dagg was injured in 2011, cannot make the 22.

Kirwan has named an unchanged side.

Yesterday Dan Carter and Taylor said they have yet to decide who will kick for goal.

Taylor took the conversions during last week's inter-squad match in Christchurch, with Carter left to play a low-key role that required him to do little more than shift the ball wide and not risk injury by challenging the defensive line.

TEAMS

CRUSADERS Tom Taylor, Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Ryan Crotty, Israel Dagg, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Dominic Bird, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Tom Marshall.

BLUES Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, George Moala, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (c), Culum Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Angus Ta'avao, Liaki Moli, Brendon O'Connor, Bryn Hall, Baden Kerr, Jackson Willison. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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