Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Todd gets second look in as third string flanker

Sam Cane is ahead of him and he will drop to third in the pecking order once Richie McCaw returns, but for Matt Todd tonight presents a fantastic opportunity to cement himself as the next best No7 in the country.

Todd, the hard-working Crusaders' flanker, came from nowhere to make the final All Black squad for the France tests after the injury to teammate Dominic Bird, a lock.

He received a text message on his phone on the morning the squad assembled in Auckland on June 2, two days after he played the Waratahs in Christchurch.

Officially called in as "cover", Todd appeared destined for only a training role, but now he gets what could be considered a surprise chance to impress a selection panel keen to shake things up a bit in the dead rubber in New Plymouth.

Todd, 25, is familiar with a back-up role.

He was called in by the All Blacks to cover for McCaw during the latter stages of the World Cup but appeared to have drifted off the radar, a feeling which would have been reinforced when he missed last month's two training camps in Mt Maunganui.

Steve Hansen said he was happy with Cane as the only specialist openside before having a change of heart and, once in the squad, Todd's first task was to learn what was required of him.

"First and foremost it was getting my head around the game plans and structures," Todd said.

"Not being at those first two camps, I had a lot to catch up on."

Hansen said he had been impressed with how Todd fitted in, adding he is keen to see how the player responds when, if all goes well, he replaces Cane in the second half.

With his low centre of gravity, Todd is an excellent pilferer of the ball at the breakdown, but his speed in open play could be a factor in a match which has the potential to open up on his arrival.

"From watching and talking to the boys, they [France] are big boys and they really put an emphasis on getting in there and getting over the ball. That's obviously a real focus of theirs and they've been effective in that area," Todd said.

"If you beat them there, that's half the battle."

- APNZ

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