Nobody can doubt that Aaron Cruden is a world-class No.10, but even that shouldn’t justify his selection in the All Blacks on June 8th.
The biggest question of this entire conversation is – what happens should Beauden Barrett get injured and be unavailable for the All Blacks?
If you look at the numbers, Cruden isn’t doing too bad at all so far this year, but it’s certainly far from convincing.
From a loyalty perspective, and we all know that is a key ingredient to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen’s selection process, Cruden is a certainty to make the squad. If Cruden plays in all three tests against the Lions, whether from the bench or as a starter, he will achieve 50 caps for the All Blacks prior to leaving NZ Rugby after a long and storied career.
AARON WIREMU CRUDEN
Position: First Five Eight
All Blacks Caps: 47
Super Rugby Caps: 109 (25 for Hurricanes and 84 for Chiefs)
But look around at some of the talent in the crucial position of first five, beginning with what the Crusaders have in their arsenal.
Richie Mo’unga. Now into his second full-time season as a starter with the Crusaders, Mo’unga has gone from strength to strength and can be counted on from the kicking tee.
Down in Highlanders territory, Lima Sopoaga hasn’t only paid his dues and is ready for a decent role in the All Blacks; he has also been one of the most accurate kickers in Super Rugby throughout the past three seasons.
Both of those men could argue their bid for an All Black jersey over Cruden, and one will likely be taken as the third choice first five. No one will be selected ahead of Beauden Barrett – a man who is simply in a league of his own right now.
Aaron Cruden In Patchy Form For Chiefs
As Super Rugby has gone through the rounds in 2017; things have steadily gone from bad to worse for Aaron Cruden.
Most signs of this were confirmed in Suva in the May 19th clash against the Crusaders. Cruden missed too many kicks, including one from directly in front of the posts. When I spoke to him that following Monday, Cruden admitted his performance on the night “felt like a bit of a bummer“.
Cruden struggled again against the Blues the week after and seemed reluctant to hand the tee over to his teammate Damian McKenzie. Sure – McKenzie hasn’t been the most stable of goal either – but word from head coach Dave Rennie suggests that the pair is left to their own devices to decide who takes the kicks on the day of the game.
Select The All Blacks Based On Current Form With A Look To The Future
A lot of readers will scoff at the notion that a player with the calibre and leadership capabilities of Aaron Cruden should be left out of the All Blacks.
The best way to ensure that the talent of the future can handle the pressure is the ‘throw them into the fire’ in big matches, like those against the Lions. Both Richie Mo’unga and Lima Sopoaga want to stay in New Zealand, and they should be serious All Black contenders. Cruden, meanwhile, leaves New Zealand at the end of Super Rugby to play in France. Let’s select based on form and proven ability – and all signs point to Mo’unga and Sopoaga having the edge in that race – in this season at least.
Author: Michael Pulman