All Blacks legend Inga Tuigamala backs 'fearless' first-five Aaron Cruden to lead the All Blacks past the Wallabies at Eden Park in the Rugby World Cup semifinal this Sunday.
Cruden was only a late replacement for the injured Dan Carter after he ruptured his groin in training before the side's last Pool A match against Canada but his 45 minute stint against Argentina has propelled his case forward for a starting position.
"I'm pleased Aaron Cruden is in the first-five position. He has come through the ranks very well with a brilliant passing game and he's fearless in the way he attacks the line.
The familiarity of him [Cruden] alongside Piri Weepu, Conrad Smith and Cory Jane is a Hurricanes backline that may prove to be an advantage for us," said the 19 test cap All Black.
Original back-up first-five Colin Slade struggled to cement the number ten jersey after unconvincing displays against Japan, Canada and France before also suffering a groin injury in the quarter-final win over Argentina.
Cruden's introduction back into the international fold after a two year absence was a seamless transition as he combined superbly with Piri Weepu to close out the quarter-final victory.
"Last weekend [against Argentina] we showed that we could be tough and patient in building for a win, he said."
"I've seen enough maturing on the field from our players. They have leaders all around the paddock even with Dan Carter out of the tournament."
Cruden isn't the only young gun to perform with distinction in the All Blacks' World Cup campaign with Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui performing strongly since the opening match against Tonga.
"Our side is well balanced with threats upfront and out-wide," he said.
"The return of Dagg and Kahui is exciting as they have played extremely well in the opening few weeks and their return will provide plenty in attack."
Tuigamala, a veteran of two World Cups with the All Blacks in 1991 and Manu Samoa in 1999, is quietly confident of an All Blacks triumph this weekend.
However he knows very well the off-field and frontline threat their semifinal opponents bring to the table with two key personnel in their ranks - Robbie Deans and David Pocock.
"We need to be mindful of coach [Robbie] Deans he knows the players well, there strengths, weaknesses and what makes them tick," he said.
"Pocock will be the key player on the field for the Wallabies, he could hurt us if he has a good game."
"He has a great ability to get over the ball and nullify the All Blacks backline," he said.
- HERALD ONLINE