Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Next up for Cruden - Wallabies

Aaron Cruden is odds on to start the Bledisloe match.
Aaron Cruden is odds on to start the Bledisloe match.

Like most of his Chiefs teammates, Aaron Cruden enjoyed some social downtime after their Super 15 campaign finished. But not for long.

After a few days the five-eighths was back in training with a mix of gym programmes and conditioning work to have him primed for the Rugby Championship.

That attention will pay off with Cruden the frontrunner to start the All Blacks' opening test in the Rugby Championship against the Wallabies in Sydney on August 16.

He began all three tests against England in June and was a strong performer in the All Blacks' ongoing victory march and was in the frontline battle for Sydney.

Daniel Carter's return from sabbatical late in the Super 15 and encouraging noises from coach Steve Hansen suggested the five-eighths selection duel was tightening.

However a cracked fibula in Carter's right leg will keep him out of action for about a month with Cruden and his deputy Beauden Barrett to feel the heat of battle against the Wallabies, Pumas and Springboks.

It's a bit of history repeating.

In 2010, Cruden made his first test start against the Wallabies in Sydney because Carter had surgery to repair his ankle. It was an awkward start and Cruden was subbed by Colin Slade in the 23-22 win.

A year later Cruden was drafted into the World Cup squad to resume his All Black career when he replaced Carter, who had ruptured his groin.

Cruden has played 32 tests and started 10 of the All Blacks' current run of 17 victories since their last defeat, to England, in 2012.

- NZ Herald

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