Rugby: Cruden happy to leave leadership pressures to others

By Kris Shannon

Aaron Cruden says he'll jump at the chance if selected to face England. Photo / Dean Purcell
Aaron Cruden says he'll jump at the chance if selected to face England. Photo / Dean Purcell

It sounds incongruous but Aaron Cruden will benefit from the reduction in responsibility that arrives in the All Black environment.

Cruden described his outing in Saturday's loss to the Waratahs as the worst he's had in a Chiefs jersey, guilty of pressing after returning from injury to captain a struggling side.

But if he fends off the challenge of Colin Slade and Beauden Barrett, to start against England, Cruden is confident of finding form in a role with fewer requirements.

"As a captain you always want to lead from the front and then you've got your other responsibilities of your own game," he said. "But it's great in this All Black environment. The coaches just ask you to really understand your job within your team and then go out and execute that."

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Coach Steve Hansen agreed with that assessment and believed the first five-eight would produce a display worthy of the black jersey, whether in the run-on XV or off the bench.

"We've pretty much made a decision but there's no point telling Stuart Lancaster that yet," Hansen said. "[Cruden's] in a side who, at the moment, are having their issues and he's the captain of that side, so he's probably come back in trying too hard. But I think that 80 minutes on Saturday would have done a world of good and we'll see how he comes through the week."

Fitness was not an issue for Cruden against the Waratahs, having remained in shape while resting a broken thumb, but execution was an issue. He missed touch from a couple of penalties and he was short of his usual influence in attack.

But rather than reflect on that, the 25-year-old need only cast his mind back to a certain sideline conversion in Dublin if he's short of any self-belief.

"I just have to look back at the last moments I had in the All Blacks jersey and get a lot of confidence and comfort from that. If given the opportunity to wear that No 10 jersey, I'll jump at the chance and give it a great crack."

And if not, he still has his part to play in the squad.

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"It's a really healthy competition. Whoever gets the job, the other guys have a massive role to play in supporting that guy and doing everything we can to get the right result."

- APNZ

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