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Tough battle to fill Read's boots

11th February 2014 06:50

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Luke Whitelock Crusaders SR 2014

Facing stiff competition: Luke Whitelock

With All Blacks number eight Kieran Read being rested for the Crusaders' opener against the Chiefs, the battle is on to fill his position.

Coach Todd Blackadder has confirmed that Read would sit out February 21 clash in Christchurch. and although Luke Whitelock would be many Crusaders supporters' choice to take over from Read, Blackadder's recent comments suggests he hasn't made up his mind yet about a replacement.

Blackadder has stated that his side's recent pre-season matches would be genuine trials and he appears to be sitting with a selection headache now.

"With the two trial matches we have had, I would say there is real competition for spots," Blackadder told Fairfax Media.

"There is not a lot between the guys. There is some genuine competition."

Whitleock's closest competition comes from Jordan Taufua, who started at number eight when the Crusaders beat the Highlanders in Motueka last weekend, while Richie McCaw and George Whitelock can also play in the position.

The loose trio for the match against the Chiefs could also depend on whether McCaw moves to the blindside flank so that Matt Todd can start in the number seven jersey.

The Crusaders appear to have been in negotiations with the All Blacks management before it was agreed to rest Read - who had a high workload on international duty in 2013 - for the Chiefs match.

"He [Read] won't be available for the opening game - he will be ready to go for the Blues game (on 28 February)," added Blackadder.

That was always the plan.

"It's a far better plan than the original one, that he was not going to be available for the first three weeks. Everyone else is ready to go which is good."

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