New Zealand v South Africa, Tri-Nations, Auckland, July 10
Cruden calm on No.9 prospects
July 5, 2010
Aaron Cruden is in relaxed mood © Getty Images
All Black Aaron Cruden has given little thought to being called into action at scrum-half during the Tri-Nations.
The Hurricanes fly-half has been earmarked by coach Graham Henry as cover behind halfback duo Jimmy Cowan and Piri Weepu, but has only a handful of games at schoolboy level to call on as experience. Should he get the call to play at the base of the scrum, he will be picking the brains of his experienced colleagues at every opportunity.
The All Blacks kick-off their Tri-Nations campaign against South Africa in Auckland on Saturday, with the Boks missing their scrum-half maestro Fourie du Preez due to shoulder surgery.
"It's just something maybe that he [Henry] wants to keep up his sleeve," Cruden said. "I'm not too sure. I haven't really had a decent chat with him. He sort of ran it past me.
"I played a couple of games there back at school so it will be a hell of a lot different now than what it was back then. We'll just sort of keep that there and see what progresses from it. If I get told I'm definitely covering nine, I'll definitely be in their ear as much as I can, trying to pick their brains of what to do in certain situations."
Cruden's debut caps, in recent Tests against Ireland and Wales, followed a year after he led New Zealand to glory at the IRB Junior World Championships and he expects another step up again. He is among several new faces in the squad, with prop Ben Franks, flanker Victor Vito, centre Benson Stanley and fullback Israel Dagg also preparing for their first Tri-Nations.
"We are well aware as the new guys coming in what the expectations are," he said. "All the young guys can't wait to get out there and have their opportunity, and give it a real good crack.
"It's going to be a big step up. From Super 14, the level at Test matches has been higher in physicality and pace of the game, so it's just been about adapting. I think the younger guys have done that pretty well in the first Tests of the year and we've just got to continue that into the Tri-Nations."