New Zealand
Cruden's kicking woes open door for Carter
November 10, 2014
Aaron Cruden had a fine game with ball in hand against England but his goal-kicking remains a concern © Getty Images

A searching session with kicking coach Mick Byrne awaits All Blacks five-eighth Aaron Cruden as calls continue to come for the return of Dan Carter.

Cruden endured another disappointing night in front of the sticks against England, landing just two of five kicks as the All Blacks held on for a 24-21 win at Twickenham. It had been a similar story seven days earlier against the United States in Chicago. In both Tests he scored a try, was composed in general play, but missed a swag of shots at goal; five in total against the Eagles. His record of eight successes from 18 across his last three Tests reflects a routine which is out of sync.

"It is just about trying to find that rhythm," Cruden said. "As a kicker you want to get into the groove fairly early and for me it is just about getting back to basics and doing a lot with Mick who is an expert in that area."

Cruden says some of his shots are striking the "inside" of his foot, which he says is easily tweaked. He has landed 99 of 138 shots in his Test career for a 72 per cent success rate. A shonky radar isn't helping Cruden's cause in a fierce battle with Carter and Beauden Barrett to be the first-choice No.10.

Barrett also let himself down at Twickenham, landing one of three relatively easy shots off the bench. Cruden has started both Tests on tour and can expect to make way for Barrett or Carter against Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Carter played 30 minutes off the bench in Chicago, the veteran playmaker appearing to bear no side effects of the broken leg he suffered in the Super Rugby final in August. Former All Blacks No.10 Andrew Mehrtens called for Carter's inclusion at No.10 last week but Hansen decided to stick with Cruden and Barrett.

A start against Scotland this week is a genuine possibility however and one writer Richard Knowler is fully supportive of.

"One player who simply must play in some meaningful capacity is Carter," Knowler wrote. "It is clear Aaron Cruden is good enough to steer the All Blacks to victory in the biggest of occasions and that provides plenty of comfort.

"But questions remain, goalkicking at the top of the list. Landing six of 14 kicks over the past two weeks is unacceptable at test level, a cringe-inducing 42 per cent success rate. That aside, all concerned would like to see Carter get back in his groove sooner rather than later after he sat out the battle royal at Twickenham."

© AAP with staff writers

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