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Matt Todd finding familiarity among cast of returning Crusaders

By Ned Lester
Matt Todd, Ryan Crotty and Kieran Read after the All Blackswon bronze at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

At just 35, Matt Todd could very well be on the playing field for the Crusaders, but instead, the 25-time All Black is getting a jump start on his coaching career.

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Todd played out what would be the last of his playing years in a Toshiba Brave Lupus jersey in Japan just this year, but has already featured in the coaches box for both the Canterbury U19 team and the senior NPC side.

Incoming Crusaders coach Rob Penney has been quick to reward Todd’s efforts by recruiting him to Super Rugby status, employing the 140-cap Crusader for his nous on the defensive end and as a breakdown specialist.

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He’ll rejoin plenty of familiar faces at Rugby Park, with 12 former teammates from Todd’s last season (2019) in red and black in the 2024 squad, including some veterans older than the assistant coach.

Ryan Crotty – who Todd recently recruited back to Canterbury’s NPC side – joins Manasa Mataele and Owen Franks in returning to the Christchurch club.

“I think having some of those familiar faces helps. Having guys you played with, you can kind of lean on them at certain times,” Todd said, as reported by Stuff.

“I certainly wouldn’t have thought an opportunity like this would come so quickly. For it to happen, I’m very grateful for that.

“But I know, at the same time, it’s now about making the most of that opportunity and putting in the work that’s required to live up to the expectations that are required when you’ve got a role like this.”

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Todd and Penney have big shoes to fill, replacing new All Blacks personnel in Scott Robertson and Scott Hansen. But, as the squad members on their next era, it’s a familiar schedule for Todd.

“It’s reasonably the same,” he said of pre-season training.

“This time of the year, there’s a mix of footy stuff, hard work, conditioning-type stuff that you need to do to get the body ready. Then that kind of bonding stuff, doing activities that you build those connection pieces, get everyone familiar with each other as quick as you can.”

Expectations for the team on a seven-year win streak are more subdued than previous campaigns given the on and off-field turnover, but the messages are consistent within the camp says Todd.

“The conversations that have been had, the standards that are being driven, the want to get better from the players and everyone is really high.

“I think there’s certainly that hunger and desire to want to get better, and that’s what you need this time of the year. And everyone is open to feedback, they want feedback to learn and want to be challenge and want to grow. It’s pleasing to see.”

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Jon 2 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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