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Richie McCaw has six appeal for Todd Blackadder
ESPN Staff
January 29, 2014
Matt Todd has established himself as the Crusaders' starting No.7 in Richie McCaw's absence © Getty Images
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Richie McCaw may wear the Crusaders' No.6 jumper as Todd Blackadder bids to make room in his starting line-up for Matt Todd in their Super Rugby-opening fixture against defending back-to-back champions the Chiefs.

McCaw was considered an automatic starter at openside flanker for the Crusaders' opener on February 21, with Todd initially not expected to be available until late March after tearing a pectoral muscle last September, but the flanker with two Test caps after debuting in McCaw's absence against France in New Plymouth last year has recovered so quickly from the surgery that he could start in the pre-season game against the Highlanders in Motueka on February 7. And Blackadder wants to see Todd in his starting side.

"Matt Todd was one of our better performers last year," Blackadder told Fairfax Media. "I don't want guys sitting on the bench who should be out there starting. For these guys, it's about their performances on the track."

McCaw, however, has made it clear what position he prefers.

"Probably 7," McCaw told Fairfax Media when asked where he wanted to start.

"But with Matt Todd coming back with injury ... hopefully I will be playing 7 but if there other reasons to play elsewhere then I will do that."

Ostensibly there should be no debate about whom Blackadder will select to wear the No,7 jumper, with McCaw one of New Zealand's greatest players having won 124 Test caps. But McCaw played for the Crusaders only twice last season, as he completed a sabbatical to prolong his career, and he hasn't started as openside flanker since July 2012. Todd, meanwhile, has developed to such an extent that he has made his Test debut, having played 34 matches as an openside in 2011 and 2012 as McCaw, mainly because of a foot injury, appeared there on just eight occasions.

"To be honest that is my best position," McCaw said of openside. "If I can play there, that is where I intend to play. And I think Toddy realises that. But if someone is injured and there is a need [to change] then Matt goes pretty well there, too."

McCaw returned to training only on Monday, after the extended break granted to All Blacks players after their end-of-year tour to Europe, but Blackadder expects him to be available to play the Chiefs in his first season opener since 2009.

"I will look at all options," Blackadder told Fairfax Media. "I see Richie as being a 6 as well."

Blackadder who is also "open" to the option of playing his flankers in a left-right combination, in order to start Todd alongside McCaw, also must consider the role of his incumbent No.6, George Whitelock, with Kieran Read a certainty to wear the No.8.

The coach presently is also considering the possible absence of Read from his side to play the Chiefs after his extended off-season break, Blackadder noting the player's heavy physical and mental workload during McCaw's absence last year.

"Reado will possibly be the only [All Blacks international to miss the Chiefs game]," Blackadder said. "Everyone who is fit and ready to perform will be ready to go."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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