Cruden ready to step up
With Dan Carter likely to miss the first Test against France with a hand fracture, Aaron Cruden is set to get a chance in the All Black No.10 jersey.
With Dan Carter set to miss the Test against France on Saturday with a hand fracture, Aaron Cruden is set to get an opportunity in the All Black No.10 jersey.
The All Black coaching staff said that they will not risk Carter unless he is 100 percent fit, and with that looking unlikely the stage is set for Cruden to make his ninth start in his 21st Test at Eden Park in Auckland this weekend.
Cruden impressed when he was thrust into the starting line-up for the World Cup Final against France at the same venue in 2011, but All Black assistant coach Ian Foster believes his game has developed even further over the last two years.
"We've seen a lot in the last two to three years really," Foster told Fairfax media.
"Whenever he's played for the All Blacks he's played well. But I think we've seen him really grow over the last year, particularly in that Wales Test (last November). He really cemented himself we thought as an international 10 in that game.
"He's got a control part to his game now and he's obviously got the running part, and this year [in Super Rugby] he's just carried that form on."
Despite being knocked out cold in the Blues' defeat to the Highlanders on Saturday, scrumhalf Piri Weepu appears to have made a good recovery, and despite not being involved in contact training on Monday he should be available to take his place in the starting line-up this weekend.
He's remarkably well, and the medicos are very happy with him," Foster said. "He was on light duties today but he's very clear-headed and witty as normal."
There was further good news for the All Blacks on the injury front, with veteran Tony Woodcock the only prop that did not train on Monday.
Woodcock has a nose infection that seems set to rule him out of the first Test in Auckland, and it appears likely that Crusaders stalwart Wyatt Crockett will take his place on the loosehead side of the scrum against France.
Foster admitted that the French are something of an unknown quantity given all the new faces in their set-up, but added that his side are focused on their own game.
"We've looked at them and we're aware they've got some newness. But quite frankly we haven't got too much time to think about them," he said.
"This week is about us trying to get a game plan that we think we can at least complete.
"I guess for the second and third tests we can start to develop a little more opposition work," he said.