McCaw may be stuck at No 8 for Crusaders

RICHARD KNOWLER IN HAMILTON
Last updated 05:00 22/06/2012
Richie McCaw
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STAYING PUT: Richie McCaw may have to play at No 8 for the Crusaders next week if Kieran Read does not recover in time.

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Richie McCaw's switch to No 8 will continue next week if Crusaders team-mate Kieran Read's concussion lingers.

Despite naming McCaw at No 8 in Read's absence for tomorrow night's test against Ireland, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is adamant his captain's immediate future lies at openside flanker. But in the short-term McCaw may be locked into the less-familiar No8 spot.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, who hopes to spark his team's run into the Super Rugby playoffs with a win against the Hurricanes next weekend, confirmed McCaw was the logical candidate to start at No8 if Read struggles to shake his concussion.

Matt Todd would play at openside flanker.

"It would probably be Richie at No8, especially with our other loose forwards Joe Wheeler and Brendon O'Connor being injured," Blackadder said.

With Read declared unfit after collecting his second knock in as many weekends, Hansen has elected to start Sam Cane, who made his test debut as a replacement in Christchurch last weekend, at No7.

He could have accommodated McCaw at openside by retaining Adam Thomson on the blindside and starting Liam Messam, who was always slated to join the squad following Victor Vito's knee injury in the first test, at No8. Instead Hansen has drafted Messam into the No6 jersey, maintaining that position suits him best.

Thomson would benefit from a break from training and would be utilised as a substitute at Waikato Stadium, he added.

Should we view this back row shuffle as an indication that McCaw's international future lies at No8? You should not, said Hansen.

"I've said it before and I will keep saying it," he said. "I think he is the best No7 in the world regardless of what other people are saying around the place.

"Unfortunately "Reado" is not here and the makeup of our loose forward trio means he has to shift to another position."

This will be McCaw's first start at No8 in a test. Against the Springboks in Wellington last year he wore No7 but switched to the back of the scrum on defence to take the heat off Thomson.

Although familiar with the position after sporadic appearances with the Crusaders and Canterbury, the majority of his career has been as a specialist No7.

Read's injury, which will be monitored, is not the only concern for the Crusaders.

The hamstring Carter strained at training on Tuesday could sideline him for up to three weeks.

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That could potentially rule him out of the Crusaders' next two regular season games against the Hurricanes and Chiefs.

Blackadder is expected to receive an update from the All Blacks medical staff today.

With Carter unavailable Tom Taylor will return to first-five for the Crusaders and will play for his Burnside club tomorrow. "We just have to carry on without them [Read and Carter] if they are not available," Blackadder said.

- Canterbury

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