Mature Cruden ready to step up
Mature Cruden ready to step upSHARE
Aaron Cruden, with a World Cup-winner's medal in his back pocket, feels he is now mature enough to fill the gap left by Dan Carter with confidence.
The 23-year-old Chiefs flyhalf, who made his debut for the All Blacks in a Test match against Ireland in 2010, started for the All Blacks in the World Cup Final against France in Auckland last year – but left the field in the 34th minute with a bad knee injury.
However, after being named in the team for the third and final Test against Ireland in Hamilton on Saturday – after Carter again cried off with an injury – Cruden admitted the All Black environment used to make him "apprehensive".
Carter strained a hamstring in training on Tuesday and Cruden stepped into the firing line, just as he did at the World Cup last year when a groin injury ruled out New Zealand's most prized pivot.
This time Cruden feels he is better equipped to cope with the demands of Test rugby.
"I think I've matured a lot over the last couple of years," he told APNZ.
"When I first came in I was really nervous. I changed a lot of my techniques and routines because I didn't want to not note anything down or miss things and let the team down.
"Coming in now, I'm just a lot more relaxed about it. I'm stuck in my routine which has been working for me in the last couple of years. I'm just doing that no matter what team I'm playing for – be it Manawatu, the Chiefs or the All Blacks."
A significant amount of Cruden's initial angst would have been tied to the boots he was attempting to fill. Cruden's first appearance in a black jersey came as a replacement for Carter and he has long been tipped as a successor to the 30-year-old.
"It's always hard because Dan is obviously the best in the world," Cruden, who has played 10 tests, told APNZ.
"All you can do is really just focus on your role, nail that throughout the week and try and put as much pressure on him as you can.
"Then, when you're called upon during the weekends, just step up to the mark and do everything you can to help the team perform well."
That's what the Chiefs first-five will be doing on his home paddock in Hamilton this weekend as the All Blacks seek a sweep of the three test series, and he will aided by a belief he is now near Carter's level.
"I'm definitely going to be out there trying to stake my claim and keep Dan on his toes if I can, and really push to get another start.
"A couple of years ago I probably wasn't as mature as I am now. I think the move up north really helped me get relaxed and get stuck in my routine and my ways."