The numbers don't lie.

Aaron Cruden, the man with probably the best chance of filling the All Blacks No.10 jersey for the first test against Wales on June 11, has not kicked well at goal during his limited opportunities with the Chiefs this season but says he will definitely improve.

For that he will be helped by assistant coach Ian Foster, who has taken over the tee tutoring duties from Mick Byrne, a former Australian Rules footballer who has returned to the land of his birth after an association with the All Blacks which spanned a decade.

Cruden, who is up against Beauden Barrett and Lima Sopoaga for a start at first-five in the absence of Dan Carter in one of the most hotly contested positions in the team, was scheduled to meet Foster with his goalkicking teammates tonight to discuss a training schedule ahead of the first test at Eden Park.


The 24-year-old Cruden, who has played 37 tests but didn't appear for the All Blacks last year due to a knee injury which required surgery, has the worst goalkicking success rate of the trio this season with 52 per cent. Damian McKenzie, his Chiefs teammate named in an All Blacks squad for the first time on Sunday with a view to his development, has kicked at 69 per cent.

Highlanders first-five Lima Sopoaga has been the most accurate with 75 per cent, with Barrett recording 64 per cent for the Hurricanes.

In the white-hot pressure of test rugby, such margins are important.

But Cruden, who has responded time and again to misfortune over the years in terms of injury and a brush with cancer as a teenager, was not about to dodge the goalkicking question today, saying: "I have missed a few more than I would like. It's just about getting back and really focusing and knuckling down on my processes and getting excited about goalkicking. I've still got a lot of work to do but in saying that I definitely will improve and get better in that area."

In the past Cruden's goalkicking practice has been limited by a groin injury, but there are no such concerns at the moment. "I'm feeling good," he said. "The knee is feeling strong."

While potentially concerned at Cruden's current success rate, the All Blacks coaches will be confident he can deliver on the biggest stage, given he has so often before. One of his most difficult and high-pressure kicks occurred in Dublin in 2013 when he was faced with a conversion attempt on the left touchline to beat Ireland. With the final hooter already having sounded, and with the opportunity to re-take the kick after an early charge from the Irish, Cruden duly nailed it.

30 May, 2016 1:00pm
3 minutes to read

Barrett and Sopoaga are also form players but Cruden's game sense and ability to set an early agenda in a test should see him as the incumbent, not that he is looking at it that way.

"Everyone is on a level playing field. the way the other 10s have been playing Super Rugby, their form has been outstanding," he said. "For me coming back in, whether my role is in the starting XV, on the bench, or not even in the match day 23, I just want to contribute to ultimately the team getting the result each game.

"I sat back last year with immense pride at the way the boys went out and won the World Cup, but at the same time I had a few mixed emotions of missing an opportunity there too. It's definitely something I'll never take for granted, being named in this squad."

Aaron Cruden:
Goals kicked: 11; Missed: 10; Success rate: 52%

Beauden Barrett:
Goals kicked: 46; Missed: 26; Success rate: 64%

Lima Sopoaga:
Goals kicked: 42; Missed: 14; Success rate: 75%

Damian McKenzie:
Goals kicked: 40; Missed: 18; Success rate: 69%