Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Carter in unfamiliar 12 Jersey for Crusaders

Dan Carter. Photo / Getty Images
Dan Carter. Photo / Getty Images

He started his career in the position but has since established himself has one of the best first-fives ever. Now Dan Carter has been named at second-five as the Crusaders look to unsettle the unbeaten Stormers.

In a surprise move, 23-year-old Tom Taylor, in his first season at this level, has been given the job to guide his team around Christchurch Stadium on Saturday night.

With Carter missing three relatively easy penalties in his last game against the Bulls, a 32-30 loss for the Crusaders, the Crusaders have felt it necessary to select Taylor for his accurate goalkicking. The question remains why Taylor is at first-five - he has also proven to be capable at second-five, and moved there when Carter made his return in the victory over the Cheetahs in Christchurch.

Even Carter expressed some surprise at the switch but said it made sense. "Having two five-eighths out on the field, it gives the team the chance to have a left foot, right foot combination and two ball-playing five eighths,'' he said.

Coach Todd Blackadder said it would also lessen the pressure on Carter, who will be playing in his fourth match since his groin injury suffered during the World Cup.

"It's asking a little bit too much of him to do the goalkicker, be the director, be the voice and do everything,'' said Blackadder.

"We just want him to play. I see it more as an opportunity rather than a demotion. We've got Tom Taylor who can now do the goalkicking and the other thing is we put his experience in midfield so he will shore that up.''

The Crusaders feel they need to do something a little different against the Stormers who have one of the tightest defences in the competition. They proved that in the 21-6 victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin last weekend, keeping Jamie Joseph's men try-less in the match and scoreless in the second half.

Their defence is based around line speed and also physicality. They shocked the Highlanders by continually going high and wrestling their ball carriers behind the advantage line.

In a game in which every play is analysed on video by their opponents, Carter's selection is likely to have taken the Stormers by surprise and his ability to slip tackles and pass could unsettle them.

"Our forwards and midfield have to carry strong in that contact zone,'' wing Zac Guildford said. "We can't go wide to wide like we did in the second half against the Bulls, but if we get through them we could be away.''

There is a feeling at the Crusaders that this is a defining match for their season. They have a three-win, three-loss record but showed encouraging signs against the Lions and Bulls.

"I think we just need to be smart,'' injured captain Richie McCaw said. "Playing at the right end of the field is key. They showed against the Highlanders last week, when you play too much at the wrong end of the field, you give away penalties and give away three points.''

All of the emotion swirling around the Blues could help them in their quest to get their season back on track. They face a tough test against the Sharks at Eden Park tomorrow (Friday) but Pat Lam's emotional response about the racial abuse he has suffered should draw the team closer.

Whether that corresponds to results is anyone's guess given the performance in their defeat to the Rebels in Melbourne, but the show of support from former players, including Michael Jones, at the team's captain's run, will be something else to stiffen their resolve.

All Blacks lock Ali Williams has been dropped to the bench, with Liaki Moli joining Filo Paulo in the second row.

Auckland midfielder Hadleigh Parkes, a wider training group member, will play on the right wing.

With the Hurricanes and Highlanders having a bye, the only other New Zealand team in action are the Chiefs, who take on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Sunday morning (NZ time).

Dave Rennie's high-flying team, who are second behind the Stormers on the overall table, will be favoured to win but the Cheetahs have proven to be tough opposition this year, due to their unpredictable style, and will not be easy at home.

Crusaders team to play the Stormers at Christchurch Stadium at 7.35pm on Saturday: Israel Dagg, Sean Maitland, Robbie Fruean, Dan Carter, Zac Guildford, Tom Taylor, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Tom Donnelly, Ben Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Quentin McDonald, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Ryan Crotty, Tom Marshall.

- APNZ

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