All Blacks: Cruden signs till 2017

By Kris Shannon

Aaron Cruden. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Aaron Cruden. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It's a good thing Aaron Cruden has re-committed to New Zealand rugby because he probably doesn't have a second career as a contract negotiator.

The first five-eighth has signed on to remain with Manawatu and the Chiefs for another three seasons, locking in the future of one of the All Blacks' brightest young talents four days out from the third test against England in Hamilton.

It's a future that was never in doubt for Cruden, declining to test his value on the open market in favour of continued loyalty.

That approach might not have been the best at the bargaining table, but Cruden was more concerned about ensuring some stability for his family.

"Talking to my agent, I told him all along I wanted to stick in New Zealand, so I don't think he offered me around too much," Cruden said this afternoon. "I told him I was pretty keen to stick around. The deal was done and I'm pretty excited about that.

"I think to have that security for the next three years is exciting and now I'm able to really put my head down and work hard over the next three years. I obviously have goals and aspirations myself, so I'll continue to work each day to get better and hopefully tick those goals off along the way."

Some of those goals are obvious - another title with the Chiefs, a chance to supplant Dan Carter as the All Blacks' first choice No 10, and next year's World Cup defence in England. But another involved a bit more long-term planning, with Cruden's contract extension coinciding with the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour.

"It was definitely in the pipelines," Cruden said of the Lions' visit. "It's potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity for some. You never want to look too far ahead, but committing through to 2017, that's definitely a goal."

At 25, it is indeed a feasible target, especially considering his durability. Before he broke a bone in his thumb earlier this season, Cruden had been ever-present in Dave Rennie's Chiefs team, starting every game in both championship-winning campaigns.

While that workload could eventually take its toll, Cruden wasn't concerned enough to insert into his contract a clause enabling for a sabbatical, preferring instead to work with his coaches if and when that need arose.

"If you have a good relationship with the coach, whoever it may be, they get a bit of a gauge of workload and everything. And as a player you need to understand when your body is starting to feel it.

"Moving forward, if you have a comfortable relationship with the coach and you sort something out, that will be the best thing if your body is a bit weary and you do need a rest."

In the meantime, Cruden will turn his attentions to this weekend's clash at Waikato Stadium.

His starting spot may be under threat from Beauden Barrett, but the Manawatu man plans on remaining in the All Blacks environment for the foreseeable future.

"That's the pinnacle, playing in the black jersey, and I'd like to do that for as long as possible."

- APNZ

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