Cruden content with role as understudy

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 04/09/2012
Aaron Cruden
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
NEEDS GAME TIME: Aaron Cruden standing firm against Radike Samo for the All Blacks at Eden Park.

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Aaron Cruden might be stuck behind one of the greats right now, but the Chiefs' form first five-eighth says he's still loving every minute of his time in the All Blacks.

Dan Carter is expected to continue at first five-eighth against Argentina on Saturday, meaning Cruden's talents will likely to be utilised once again via the bench.

"Not at all," Cruden said when asked if he was frustrated not to get a chance to build on his sole start of the year against Ireland in Hamilton.

"I just have to make the most of my opportunities when I get them. At the moment they are limited, but I'm really enjoying and thriving in this environment.

"It's a real honour to be picked in this squad and that's exactly how I see it. I'm sitting behind a pretty good player in Dessie and he's always helping me as much as he can, which is great."

Though nobody of sane mind is suggesting Carter is not the first choice No 10, there is a curiosity factor at how Cruden would go in a big test.

His stellar season with the Chiefs carried over from his role in the Rugby World Cup and he produced a high-quality 24 minutes against Ireland in Hamilton before limping off with a leg injury.

And there was another bright cameo against Australia in Auckland last time out with Carter pushed out to second five-eighth for the final nine minutes.

"That worked all right. I was just stoked to get out on the field," Cruden said. "If the coaches see that as a potential combination that will be great for me to get out on the field."

Conrad Smith is set to return from injury at centre and resume his midfield partnership with Ma'a Nonu, but it's unclear whether the All Blacks will make any other changes to their backline.

Being more clinical continues to be the theme of coach Ian Foster's comments, but he said it was also important not to obsess over the negative aspects of their play.

"It's trying not to panic with that assessment. We are creating a lot of opportunities which is pleasing, but we're just a bit too excited and a bit too intense at times to take them," Foster said. "We just need clear heads making good decisions and some of that's combinations and hopefully we'll continue to grow them."

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