Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has moved to calm fears over the pelvis injury to his All Blacks loose forward Kieran Read.
Read was injured when landing heavily on his back in the shock 28-19 loss to the Rebels in Melbourne last night. The No8 had only just taken the field as a substitute in the second half, and was dropped by his lifters after stealing a Rebels throw in a lineout.
Fears about Read's involvement for the All Blacks in next month's three-test series against Ireland grew today (Sun) as news filtered through that the 26-year-old had not travelled back to Christchurch with the Crusaders but Blackadder said an extra night in Melbourne had been planned and was not related to the injury.
"He will be back in training with us on Tuesday but I'm not sure whether he'll be available for us this week,'' Blackadder said.
The news will come as a relief to new All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, given Read's Super Rugby form which moved Blackadder to recently call him the best player in the world.
A serious injury to Read would have complicated matters for Hansen, given he is already without the services of blindside flanker Jerome Kaino, and skipper Richie McCaw's only full match of the season came in last night's defeat to the Rebels. McCaw's game time had previously been limited to two substitute appearances of about half an hour each due to his extended rehabilitation from a foot injury.
While bitterly disappointed in the defeat to the Rebels, who before last night had won only two games this season, Blackadder said he did not regret naming All Blacks trio Read, Andy Ellis and Israel Dagg on the reserves bench.
He said their respective replacements Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz and Tom Marshall had all played plenty of rugby and were up to the task.
"It was the execution that was the problem,'' he said. "Our kicking game in the second half was woeful.''
Like in their narrow victory over the Reds in Christchurch the previous week, the Crusaders started the match at AAMI Stadium slowly, conceding a try to halfback Nick Phipps, the first of two he scored, before showing any attacking intent.
Tom Taylor's kicking again allowed them to gain a foothold on the game - he kicked five from five, including the conversion to Sam Whitelock's try - before being substituted for Ryan Crotty in the second half as Blackadder searched for more backline penetration.
Unfortunately for the Crusaders, those 19 points in the first half were their lot as, amazingly, the Rebels kept them scoreless after the break.
To add insult to injury it was 35-year-old substitute Sterling Mortlock who threw the two killer punches, setting Phipps up for a try and then scoring one himself straight afterwards when intercepting a Ben Franks pass.
Blackadder said Dan Carter, who has not kicked for goal in a match for over a month, would have taken over the tee following Taylor's substitution had an opportunity presented itself.
It is likely Carter will given the kicking duties in the Crusaders' next match, against the Blues in Christchurch on Saturday, which would see him back in the No10 jersey.
- APNZBy Patrick McKendry Email Patrick