Rugby: Co-leadership role chance for Cruden to speak his mind

By Kris Shannon

If co-captaining the Chiefs changes nothing else for Aaron Cruden, it at least provides a legitimate reason to chirp at the ref.

The first five-eighth was already one of the more vocal members of the champions' set-up, on the training paddock, in the changing sheds and on the playing field.

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But having replaced the departed Craig Clarke to join Liam Messam as part of the Chiefs' leadership pair, Cruden is looking to further grow that aspect of his game and lead his side to an historic hat-trick of Super Rugby titles.

And if that involves having a few words with the man in the middle, so be it

"As a first-five, I always used to try to get in the ref's ear anyway, but now being given the co-captaincy role, hopefully it'll actually give me an excuse to go and talk to the ref if I think things aren't going well.

"Everyone can get emotional at times and I'm no different, so I think being given the captaincy role I'm just going to have to be calm and collected on the field.

"I'll make sure that I communicate well with the ref, show them the respect they deserve and hopefully get it in return."

The respect Cruden receives has increased with every game in Dave Rennie's reign and, even before being given the promotion to co-captain, the 25-year-old was already a leader.

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Playing at pivot and guiding the competition's most explosive attack, Cruden was a natural choice to earn the elevation to captaincy once Clarke left for Ireland.

"It won't really change anything," Rennie said. "Aaron's already a big contributor, being a first five, so he's already leading. This just puts a 'c' next to his name. He's certainly got the respect of the boys and we believe he'll do a good job."

While he's still seen as understudy in the All Blacks' No10 stocks, the leadership role could allow Cruden to close the gap on Dan Carter while the Crusaders man is on sabbatical.

Carter will miss the June tests against England but Cruden, like any good leader, was concentrating only on the task at hand.

"I suppose that'll come a little bit later in the year. You put performances in during Super Rugby that help your claims in terms of things like that. But, for me, it's really focusing here on the Chiefs.

"I just want to be a leader and a guy that players can look to for guidance if that's what they need. I'll also hopefully bring a little bit of razzle and a bit of flair, which is the game that I love and I know the game that the Chiefs like to play."

That razzle has brought consecutive championships and Cruden's playmaking will again be crucial if the Chiefs are to make it three on the trot.

Another year of experience and another level of responsibility should only enhance his influence, a fact the competition's referees will soon hear all about.

- APNZ

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