Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Carter's class paves the way, says Crotty

For Ryan Crotty, the man who kept him out of the game for several weeks is now making him look good.

Crusaders second-five Crotty endured a frustrating start to the season when a hamstring injury sidelined him and then usual playmaker Dan Carter convalesced from his groin problem in the No 12 jersey for five games.

But Crotty, who made an eye-catching return to second-five in the big victory over the Blues in Christchurch and has continued his good form, said the Crusaders had Carter's class to thank for their charge to a semifinal date against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday night.

With Sonny Bill Williams heading to Japan to play club rugby and then the NRL, every bit of exposure is good news for Crotty, who said the way Carter was taking the ball so flat against the defensive line was a huge boost to him and centre Robbie Fruean.

"It just makes my job and Robbie's so much easier," he said. "When he's taking it so flat the defence is always on the back foot. It makes it easier to get over the gain line and get strong carries in. He has been turning it on, but it was only a matter of time. He's world class, isn't he?"

Carter was up against fellow international Morne Steyn in the qualifier against the Bulls in Christchurch last weekend but the Springbok was made to look like a nervous schoolboy in comparison. Steyn, who receives the ball much deeper than Carter, was unable to dictate play with his kicking as he likes.

As Crotty said, "If you sit back in the pocket it gives the D [defence] time to come up" and that's exactly what happened - the Bulls' backs (and forwards for that matter) were easy targets in the Crusaders' 28-13 win.

Crotty has a feeling the Chiefs will attempt to revert to what has made them successful this season.

"We've heard them speak in the media this week about wanting to play Chiefs rugby so that might suggest they will kick a little bit less and run the ball at us a little more, which is something we'll plan for."

There is also likely to be a personnel change in the midfield. Andrew Horrell, a first-five or fullback, played centre in the match-up on July 6, which was won by the Crusaders, a surprise choice given Jackson Willison's expertise. But it's likely Willison will get the nod to partner Williams this time.

For the Crusaders there is a belief that this could be their year, he added.

"The boys are conscious that if we can win this week, it's right there for us."

Crotty said skipper Richie McCaw was the man driving the new attitude.

"Some of the things he says to the boys are really good as well. There's real belief among the boys that we can do it and he said in the changing room [after the Bulls match last weekend] that it's right there for us. We just have to go out there and do the simple things well."


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hoeata happy with debut outing

A knee strain which forced Jarrad Hoeata from the field in his debut test could not wipe the smile from the Taranaki lock's face after helping the All Blacks to a 60-14 defeat of Fiji in Dunedin last night.

The 27-year-old left the field 15 minutes after the halftime break after tweaking his knee after landing awkwardly in a tackle early in the first half, but the disappointment of being forced from the field was softened by a performance in his first test that he could be proud of.

The 1.95 metre-tall Hoeata was prominent in the match until he was withdrawn and enjoyed a better game than his second row partner Ali Williams who was guilty of trying too much in his return to test rugby after more than two years in the wilderness.

Hoeata said he had a few butterflies before taking to the field as All Black number 1109.

"It was a very proud moment for myself and the family but it was a bit nerve-wracking going into it but once we got the haka and the anthems out of the way then it was all time to go.

"Just feeling all those emotions all kind of hit you at once - it was very special."

The abrasive New Zealand Maori representative said he had noticed a lift in intensity compared to Super rugby but the game itself failed to live up to any great heights.

"The rugby probably wasn't at a great level tonight, it felt a bit like a pre-season game almost, trying to cram all that content into five days and then put it on the pitch, there's always going to be mistakes and things like that but we got through it and got a good win."

He had benefited, he said, from playing with the Maori side in their centenary series in wins over Ireland and England last year which made the step up to test match rugby easier to make.

"The All Blacks are another step up again but playing games like that definitely gives you confidence and knowledge that you can match international teams," he said.

Hoeata who said he was happy with his first performance in the black jersey said team doctor Deb Robinson had looked at his knee and he was hopeful that it would not keep him on the sidelines.


Friday, July 22, 2011

First up win for All Blacks

The All Blacks have won their first test of the season, beating Fiji 60 points to 14 at Carisbrook, Dunedin.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Williams ready for comeback

Ali Williams may be about to play his first test rugby match since 2008 but the All Blacks lock is not getting ahead of himself when he takes the field against Fiji in Dunedin on Friday.

The 61-test veteran has his eyes set firmly on making the squad for the World Cup and sees the Carisbrook test as a stepping stone to achieving that goal, something that looked a distant dream last year.

A second serious Achilles injury in the space of a year had some questioning whether the 30-year-old could ever play at the top level again, but after coming through the Super 15 season with the Blues his comeback has been capped with a start at international level again.

"It's a reward for a lot of hard work but that's sort of half way up the mountain now. I've still got a lot of work to do so I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to do that.

"Once that jersey goes on the shoulders it'll be like it has never some off, but it means that I've got to do things that I haven't done in the past, which is exactly what I want," he said.

Williams, who will become the third most-capped New Zealand lock, will partner debutant Jarrad Hoeata in the second row and said the pair were in a similar position in the squad despite the gulf in experience between them.

"He's keen to pick everything up and the two of us have been running around asking the other boys questions because we haven't been in the environment. Between the two of us we'll just keep it simple and get out there and play."

Williams was itching to get back on the field after two weeks on the sidelines following the Blues' exit in the Super 15 semifinals .

"I just want to do my job, do the basics right, fit back in and add something to them. This is definitely a different game compared to Super 15," Williams said.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Blackadder for coach?

What do you reckon? Will Todd Blackadder be the next All Blacks coach after Graham Henry decides to hang up the coaching whistle? Or should NZ try to get Robbie Deans back?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Not many tickets left for RWC 2011 - yeah right!

Well it seems that as of today (Monday 4 July) there are still around 450,000 tickets left for the Rugby World Cup 2011 here in New Zealand.

This does not surprise me really. The tickets are over priced and a complicated ballot system doesn't help matters. It also doesn't help that the RWC organisers are coming down hard on even primary schools trying to make a little cash out of the RWC.

I know from my experiences, that the RWC people are very pedantic on what you show on your own website. I tried to promote official RWC rugby gear through an affiliate scheme, but in the end I canned the idea as they wanted far too much control on how I displayed their products - go figure.

I hope the RWC is a success - don't get me wrong. But they seem to be going about it all wrong.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

RWC year and injuries

Well, it's Rugby World Cup year (if you didn't know already!) and once again I am feeling a bit worried about the lead up test to the Tri Nations against Fiji.

The only thing I am worried about is the possibility of injury to our top players. Fiji will have nothing to lose when it meets the All Blacks. They will come out firing, especially due to the fact that the NZ Government will not allow any Fiji players into the country who are some how linked to the Fiji millitary coup.

Let's hope we get through this game unscathed.