All Blacks backs to the wall, says Aaron Cruden
Not quite "Once more unto the breach", but Aaron Cruden didn't mind trotting out his best rallying cry for the All Blacks yesterday.
The 25-year-old first five-eighths is an excitable sort at the best of times, but yesterday the prospect of Saturday's Bledisloe rematch against the Wallabies at Eden Park seemed to have the Manawatu skateboard king's wheels spinning wildly.
Let's face it, Cruden and his mates have plenty to prove after being held to a disappointing 12-12 draw in the wet in Sydney to have their win streak snapped and pride dented by a pretty willing Wallabies outfit.
It was a sub-par effort all round from the All Blacks and Cruden made it clear yesterday that there were a few points to prove back at the home fortress of Eden Park where they haven't lost since Wet Wet Wet had the No 1 hit single 20 years ago.
"We have talked a little about our backs being to the wall," Cruden said yesterday. "We have to come out fighting in the way we know Kiwis do and especially the way All Blacks do. It's a massive challenge and this team responds nicely when a big challenge is put in front of us."
Nice. Cruden continued his fist-pounding rhetoric when asked to describe the mindset of the All Blacks this week.
"Keen and eager," declared the No 10 who was well below his jinking best in Sydney. "It was a disappointing result. We're really excited about being back at Eden Park, and getting another crack at the Australians so soon.
"I'm sure they're feeling the same but we're pretty keen to make amends for what happened last weekend."
To his credit, Cruden made it clear there was plenty of respect for an Australian outfit that won most of the key battles in Sydney, except for the one on the scoreboard.
"I think they'll be pretty disappointed they didn't come away with a victory last weekend. They're hunting that.
"We have to match that or do better than the desire they showed. The desire is never questioned with an All Blacks team but it comes down to our skillsets. A big [weakness] was our decision-making last weekend."
As No 10, Cruden takes a big share of the responsibility there. He says he and halfback Aaron Smith have taken the key messages on board.
"We've had a really honest review process. We have to tweak a few things in terms of our game-plan and make sure our decision-making applies pressure."
Cruden understands that with Dan Carter injured, it's his time to shine. The Sydney misstep notwithstanding, he's ready to lead the charge this week.