Crusaders bench Israel Dagg
February 27, 2014
Colin Slade will start at fullback against the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland © Getty Images
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Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder continues to drop bombshells, with All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg the latest casualty.
Dagg, Johnny McNicholl and Tyler Bleyendaal have all been dropped from the team to play the Blues in Auckland on Friday night after error-ridden performances in the loss to the Chiefs in Christchurch. Dagg, who recently re-signed with the Crusaders for four years, starts from the bench after being replaced by Colin Slade. Rob Thompson and Tom Taylor have also been drafted into the starting XV.
"Izzy had one of those nights where he probably tried too hard and made a lot of mistakes," Blackadder said.
"Johnny had a poor game by his own standard and our standards, and we expected a lot more from him."
Bleyendaal's dismal goal-kicking - he missed five penalty shots against the Chiefs - counted against him.
Slade, whose career has been blighted by injuries, last appeared for the Crusaders four years ago.
The selection of newcomer Thompson means Blackadder has opted for two wings from the franchise's wider training squad, with Nafi Tuitavake making his debut against the Chiefs.
The Crusaders, meanwhile, welcome back inspirational No.8 Kieran Read. He will assume the captaincy from Richie McCaw, who, along with midfielder Ryan Crotty, passed a fitness test after being in doubt with a calf injury. Blackadder said both teams would be desperate for victory after their first-up losses.
"We know what the Blues are like at Eden Park," he said. "We experienced that last year when they gave us a real towelling up."
The Blues won the first-round fixture at Eden Park 34-15 last year, but that is been their only win in the past five matches against the Crusaders.
Crusaders: Colin Slade; Rob Thompson, Rey Lee-Lo, Ryan Crotty, Nafi Tuitavake; Tom Taylor, Andy Ellis; Kieran Read (captain), Richie McCaw, George Whitelock; Dominic Bird, Sam Whitelock; Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Tim Perry. Replacements: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Luke Romano, Matt Todd, Willi Heinz, Adam Whitelock, Israel Dagg.
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