All Blacks to fight French bid for Cruden

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 06:51
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NEWS: New Zealand will do all they can to keep Aaron Cruden with the All Blacks, coach Steve Hansen revealed Thursday as the flyhalf weighs up a lucrative offer to join French club Montpellier.

Reports from France indicate the 27-year-old, who is off contract with New Zealand Rugby next year, has been offered a deal worth more than a million dollars.

Cruden, named on the bench for Saturday's Test in Auckland against Australia after an injury lay-off, has refused to discuss the issue other than confirm he has options to consider. 

"I've got a few decisions to make but the time is probably not right now to be making those decisions after an injury lay-off," he said. 

"My focus is on the game this weekend and trying to make sure I nail my role when I get back on the field. I haven't put too much thought into [the offer]." 

However, Hansen said they have made it clear to the 42-Test pivot that New Zealand Rugby do not want to lose him.

"He knows we want him to stay and that discussion will probably happen while we're away," Hansen said with the All Blacks to leave soon on a Northern Hemisphere tour. 

"He's a big part of where we are and what we do. He's in our leadership group and he's definitely a good enough player to be a strong Test player so we won't want to lose him." 

Player retention has been a problem for New Zealand Rugby, which fights big money offers from off-shore by stating players must play in New Zealand to qualify for All Blacks selection.

Cruden was the understudy to Dan Carter for several seasons before taking over as the All Blacks' first choice flyhalf this year when Carter retired from international rugby to join Racing 92 in France.

However, his groin injury has seen him slip behind Beauden Barrett in the All Blacks pecking order.

The French reports indicate Cruden is being considered as a possible replacement for Demetri Catrakilis when New Zealander Vern Cotter takes over as Montpellier coach next season. 

Agence France-Presse