Rugby-Suspected broken thumb for McCaw piles on Crusaders gloom

Reuters

March 1 (Reuters) - The Canterbury Crusaders' disappointing start to the Super Rugby season has been compounded by a suspected broken thumb for talisman Richie McCaw.

The World Cup-winning All Blacks captain had a forgettable night in Friday's 35-24 loss to the Blues at Eden Park, missing tackles and being taken off at halftime.

"Richie may have fractured a thumb. He'll have to go to hospital for checks," Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder told reporters.

The 33-year-old flanker missed most of last year's Super Rugby season while taking a six-month sabbatical before coming back to help the Crusaders make the semi-finals of the southern hemisphere tournament.

If confirmed, a fracture could sideline McCaw for up to six weeks.

The seven-times champion Crusaders had been rated to battle the Chiefs for the New Zealand conference and an automatic berth in the playoffs, but were beaten by the title-holders in their season-opener at home.

Having blown a 17-3 lead against the Blues, the Crusaders are winless after their first two games and already under huge pressure ahead of a home game against the Cape Town-based Stormers.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)