New Zealand coach Graham Henry may want to see more of Daniel Carter at fly-half but he is going to have to wait a bit longer.
Henry believes that Carter could be a key man for the All Blacks in the number 10 jersey for the British and Irish Lions series, but his hopes of seeing the utility back secure a regular start in the position for the Crusaders have been temporarily dashed.
Carter was named at full-back for the Crusaders’ final Super 12 warm-up match against the Queensland Reds after Scott Hamilton was injured in the game against the New South Wales Waratahs and Leon MacDonald’s return from Japan was delayed by his club commitments with Yamaha.
Hamilton is expected to miss the first round match against the ACT Brumbies, a repeat of last year’s final, meaning Carter is likely to start in the number 15 jersey on February 26 with Andrew Mehrtens at fly-half.
Hamilton’s injury has left Crusaders coach Robbie Deans with a depleted squad just 10 days before the start of the new season.
Scrum-half Justin Marshall has been laid low with a virus, loose forwards Mose Tuiali’i and Johnny Leo’o are expected to miss the opening rounds as they recover from operations.
And back problems will keep lock Norm Maxwell on the sidelines until midway through the competition, while prop Greg Feek (strained calf) and hooker Tone Kopelani (head knock) were injured against the Waratahs.
Chiefs coach Ian Foster is happy his long-term injured are getting plenty of game-time ahead of their season-starter against the Waratahs.
Centre Mark Ranby and full-back Loki Crichton played their first matches last week against the Brumbies after long lay-offs with injuries, while Deacon Manu makes his comeback from a back injury against the Highlanders on Thursday.
"The Brumbies match was important for their [Ranby and Crichton’s] own confidence," Foster said. "They got 30 or 40 minutes under their belt.
"Every minute on the field is about getting back match fitness, their own confidence and the ability to work through their rehabilitation."