Timely recovery sees Todd defy the odds

Getty Images     24 Feb 2014     Getty Images

He suffered a chest injury that required surgery, forcing him to miss much of last year's ITM Cup campaign and ruling him out of consideration for the All Blacks end of season tour.

Yet he was able to defy the odds and take the field, when making an impact from the bench, in the side's opening loss to the Chiefs in Christchurch on Friday.

The fact he was there was down to the knowledge and experience of the Crusaders' medical group who had dealt with the same injury with other players earlier.

Added to that was the fact he had no setbacks after surgery, no soreness or pain. The enforced lay-off had other benefits in forcing him to take a rest which allowed other niggles he had to recover.

He was back running by late-November, early-December and being able to work on his fitness made him feel much better. Contact training began in mid-January when medical staff felt he was confident enough to return and that allowed him to play in two pre-season games.

That was not a bad effort when the worst prognosis was that he wouldn't be available again until some time in March.

It was the first significant injury of his career, and it was no surprise that he started the season refreshed and excited about the job ahead.

He would need to be given the competition for places in the Crusaders loose forwards. As admirers marvel at the consistent ability of the Crusaders to produce quality players they only need look at the loose forwards as an example of the ability that keeps the race on for places, but also educates the next group of players coming through.

Todd said it ensured training was always competitive and there was always pressure on. That competitiveness also had the advantage of allowing players to get rested knowing there were players of ability to back up.

The loss to the Chiefs had reinforced the quality that has emerged in the defending champions who, although down on resources, were still able to maintain their impressive defensive record.

Todd said Wayne Smith's defensive influence was obvious in a Chiefs side that was very well drilled, which had the ability to scramble in defence and recover and to always work hard for each other, no matter who was on the field.

This week, the Crusaders head north to Auckland to take on another losing team from their first outing, the Blues.

"This time last year we got towelled up there. They have got a lot of individuals who can hurt you from nothing and they will be determined again on Friday," he said.

Todd said Eden Park wasn't the happiest of hunting grounds for him with only one win in three outings.

But if the Crusaders are to make an impact on the competition they know they have to be better on the road. Home advantage was always tough to overcome, but it meant that travelling teams, to win, had to play even better than they would at home, he said.

Always at the back of his mind, especially since it was so early in the season, was the desire for another taste of All Blacks rugby. Todd played in two Tests last year and said that sample was just enough to make him hungrier for more.

"But there is a lot of footy to be played before I have to worry about that," he said, and it continues at Eden Park on Friday.