New Zealand Rugby
Cruden confirms Chiefs switch
ESPNscrum Staff
July 15, 2011
Hurricanes fly-half Aaron Cruden slots a kick, Hurricanes v Western Force, Super Rugby, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand, May 27, 2011
Cruden will link up with current All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith at the Waikato franchise next year © Getty Images

Hurricanes fly-half Aaron Cruden has confirmed that he will move to the Chiefs for next year's Super Rugby campaign.

The 22-year-old playmaker made his Super Rugby debut in 2010 for the Hurricanes, and was also named in the All Blacks that year. He had previously captained the New Zealand U20 team to the IRB Junior World Championship title in 2009 - a feat that also saw him named International Rugby Board's Junior Player of the Year.

Cruden missed out on selection for the Tri-Nations after the Hurricanes failed to impress in the 2011 Super Rugby season and is now set to fill the void left by Stephen Donald who is poised to link up with English Premiership side Bath.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said the franchise was "absolutely rapt" Cruden had committed to the Chiefs. "He's a top man, a quality player and a leader."

Cruden said the decision had been "extremely difficult" before revealing that it was the influence of Rennie, his coach at U20 level and current boss at Manawatu, that swayed his decision.

"I never wanted to let anyone down but a decision had to be made," he said. "It was my long-standing relationship with Rens that swayed things the Chiefs' way. It's going to be a challenge but one I am looking forward to now."

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett paid tribute to Cruden. "We are disappointed Aaron is leaving, but it's not completely unexpected considering his close and long-standing relationship with Dave Rennie and the opportunity to link with Wayne Smith," Hammett said.

"Aaron has served us well over the last two seasons: he has been extremely hard working and highly professional both on and off the field."

Hammett said the Hurricanes had a number of other "quality" fly-halfs in our region who are available, among them Beauden Barrett in Taranaki, Michael Hobbs in Wellington and Daniel Kirkpatrick in Hawke's Bay.

Manawatu lock Michael Fitzgerald also confirmed his move to the Chiefs, and will look to debut for the side in the 2012 competition. Rennie said Fitzgerald was one of the best performing locks in last year's national provincial championship. "He's a very good athlete, has an outstanding work ethic and is prepared to do a lot of the grunt work," Rennie said.

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