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Guildford wary of writing off wounded underdogs

Date

Georgina Robinson

Hitting form … Crusader Zac Guildford.

Hitting form … Crusader Zac Guildford. Photo: Getty Images

THE injury-hit Waratahs might be rank outsiders to topple last season's Super Rugby finalists in Sydney this weekend but Crusaders winger Zac Guildford says that makes them more dangerous.

Guildford has been named on the wing alongside All Blacks teammates Israel Dagg and Dan Carter in a backs combination widely tipped to stop the Waratahs shaky mid-season momentum.

But the 23-year-old said he would not take anything for granted before Sunday's round-10 clash.

''I've heard about the injuries but an understrength team is more of a danger for us and we can't take them lightly because we know the guys who've got their chance in the jersey will play with everything they've got,'' he said.

''The Waratahs are always a dangerous side and we won't expect anything less than that, even though they are a little bit depleted.''

Guildford could be speaking from experience. The Wairarapa-raised footballer is in the fight of his life for an All Blacks jersey and knows what it means to scrap for survival.

''I missed [the Crusaders'] first game but apart from that I've played every game since,'' he said of his season to date. ''I'm looking to build into the season and I've got a bit of form going now, so I'm just hoping to keep it going.''

A four-game suspension after a bender in the Cook Islands at the end of last year was the reason he missed his team's season opener against the Lions in Johannesburg.

The episode, which followed three ''please explain'' appearances in 18 months before top-level officials, triggered an ultimatum from the New Zealand Rugby Union.

Guildford pledged to stay alcohol-free for a year to save his Super Rugby career, but it appeared his stint in the All Blacks jersey had come to an end.

However, a recent meeting with new coach Steve Hansen and improving form for the Crusaders has signalled the winger might be down but is by no means out.

Guildford said the scrutiny during the Rugby World Cup was challenging to deal with but was well in the past now as the Crusaders focused on moving on from their near-trademark slow start to the Super Rugby season.

''It's a bit annoying really, we'd like to start well but we've sort of kept that history up again this season,'' he said of the squad's back-to-back early season losses.

''We had a talk the other week after we had a good win against the Stormers [in round eight]. It was the first one where we played rugby we could be really proud of and that showed us what we could do if we played as a team and were disciplined and played for 80 minutes. We have another opportunity to do that this Sunday.''

The Waratahs are taking their time naming the XV who will start against a Crusaders side that this week welcomed the playing return of dynamic breakaway Richie McCaw.

Backs Peter Betham and Atieli Pakalani were named in an un-numbered 22 yesterday, as well as reserve prop Jeremy Tilse, who will cover for Paddy Ryan's absence through injury.

Guildford said the Waratahs were known for their ball-carrying forwards and ''classy'' Test-capped backs.

But it is the partnership between halfback Brendan McKibbin and likely starting five-eighth Berrick Barnes that will be the focus of the Crusaders' strategy. ''If we can shut down their 9-10 combination that'll go a long way towards [a win],'' Guildford said.

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
 
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