Aaron Cruden struggles to give ABs pass-mark

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 13/06/2014
BELOW PAR: First five-eighth Aaron Cruden says the All Blacks were disappointed with how they played in the first test, but were still pleased to get the win.
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BELOW PAR: First five-eighth Aaron Cruden says the All Blacks were disappointed with how they played in the first test, but were still pleased to get the win.

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Aaron Cruden couldn't dodge this honesty call.

When asked to score the All Blacks' first-test display on a scale from 1 to 10 the first five-eighth knew there was little point side-stepping the subject.

''Good question - what would I say? The performance was pretty average - maybe a 5 or a 6.

''But to still get a result, to still get a win after playing so poorly you are always pretty happy to get a test win regardless of the way you play.''

Fair enough. But given the All Blacks wowed the rugby world by winning all 14 tests last year, did that scratchy performance almost feel like a defeat?

''Nah, not as a loss. We are all pretty honest guys and were all relatively disappointed with the way we all performed.''

So there you have it; pretty tepid stuff but at least they got away with a scratchy 20-15 victory over an under-strength England side at Eden Park.

Cruden kicked five penalties but more needs to be done with his general play if he is to remind coach Steve Hansen that there is no need to rush and send the call-up papers to Dan Carter ahead of the Rugby Championship.

Like a number of his team-mates Cruden, who made the extraordinary decision to take a quick penalty tap rather than kick for goal in the final minutes in Auckland, can expect Hansen to place a magnifying glass over his routine in tomorrow night's test at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Hansen was blunt when giving his reasons for not replacing the rusty Cruden with Beauden Barrett for the second test.

''If you turn around and say so-and-so shouldn't start because he played poorly we wouldn't have anyone on the park,'' Hansen stated. ''That's how bad the performance was.

''There's no point re-creating that whole thing again, putting new faces in. It's about us working hard on our skill sets and understanding how we want to play and going out and delivering on that.''

While Cruden's quick penalty tap eventually led to centre Conrad Smith scoring the match-winner, Hansen would surely have been seething if the bold move had failed and the scores had remained locked at 20-all.

Yet Cruden was emphatic Hansen hadn't taken him aside for a quiet chat to ask he temper enthusiasm.

''He hasn't said anything. He said it was a great decision.''

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