Cruden unlikely to play in green

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:00 27/08/2012
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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Almost all of the All Black test reserves have been released to their provinces, except for Manawatu's Aaron Cruden.

The phone didn't ring for Manawatu coach Jason O'Halloran yesterday so it appears the Turbos won't have him when they play Auckland at Eden Park on Sunday.

That is despite Cruden being given less than 10 minutes of play against the Wallabies on Saturday night.

"Maybe they figure the six-day turnaround was too short a time for Aaron to play for us," O'Halloran said.

"It would've been nice to have him play but we have prepared all along not to have him."

For Manawatu, Cruden's appearance would have been a bonus rather than an expectation.

It was expected that All Black coach Steve Hansen would have wanted Cruden to get game time.

He won't have played since the Super Rugby final for the Chiefs on August 4, so by the time the All Blacks play next against Argentina at Wellington on Saturday, September 8, Cruden won't have virtually had any rugby for more than a month. He didn't get on the field the previous week in Sydney.

He could have been injected earlier in Saturday's test because the All Blacks were never in any danger of losing.

Next Saturday prop Wyatt Crockett has been released to play for Canterbury and hooker Andrew Hore for Taranaki.

Cruden would have been useful as Manawatu try to beat Auckland, the sole team they have yet to topple in the seven seasons of the competition.

Friday's night's match against Wellington, lost 30-11, was a new role for O'Halloran high in the coaches' box for the first time in his formal garb.

Previously he had been running the sidelines with water and messages from on high during half of Dave Rennie's tenure as coach.

"I was happy with the effort but not the accuracy," O'Halloran said.

"We certainly can't hope to play if our set pieces are like that."

While the Turbos won all but one of their 13 lineout throws, much of it was untidy or one-handed taps over halfback Karl Bryson's head.

O'Halloran was able to fine-tune his thinking after watching the tape of the game again.

The backline were standing too deep, too much ball was turned over, clearing scrum ball was difficult and they didn't get through enough phases of play.

He said the players had been mentally up for the game but perhaps too much so, and it affected their little skills.

Lock Mike FitzGerald is expected to be fit for the Auckland match. His knock to the head wasn't serious but his sore calf affected his leaping which is why he came off for good two minutes before halftime.

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Specialist loosehead prop Grant Polson should be over his knee injury by the end of the week. But he might be fully match ready to play against Northland at Whangarei on Wednesday, September 5.

American Eric Fry never gave up in his 80-minute endeavour on Friday but he is primarily a tighthead prop who can play on the left side of the scrum.

All Blacks released to their provinces -

Tuesday: Wellington (Julian Savea and Victor Vito) v Hawke's Bay, Wellington

Wednesday: Auckland (Charlie Faumuina and Piri Weepu) v Canterbury, Christchurch

Thursday: Bay of Plenty (Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick) v Otago (Tamati Ellison and Adam Thomson), Rotorua

Saturday: Canterbury (Wyatt Crockett) v North Harbour, Christchurch

Taranaki (Andrew Hore) v Tasman, New Plymouth

- Manawatu Standard

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