Aaron Cruden may not be in the frame to get much game time for the All Blacks right now, but he is still fulfilling an important requirement for the team - pretending to be Quade Cooper.
It is anticipated that Cooper will feature in the mix for the Wallabies on Saturday night in Auckland after a flat Australian performance last Saturday. In preparation for that Cruden has spent time at training playing in a way similar to Cooper.
While Cruden had an impressive Super Rugby season for the Chiefs, he realises that Dan Carter is still the top dog when it comes to wearing the All Blacks No 10 jersey, so while he is still getting himself ready for any game time that comes his way, he is contributing in a Cooper-like way.
“You have to prepare to play and if you get an opportunity to get out on the field then make the most of it,” Cruden said.
“That's my role in the team at the moment.
"Dan had a good game at the weekend and all of the boys are right behind him.
“Us reserves are running a bit of their [Australia's] attack stuff, just to sharpen up our boys so that hopefully when they get out there, there are no surprises.
“There has been a bit of talk that they want to try a few new things and if Quade comes back into their side it will bring a lot more flair. We'll wait and see what their team list is, but we're definitely expecting him to be in the 22.”
Cruden and Cooper aren't millions of miles away in their style of play - they both play attacking rugby, like to keep the ball in hand and keep defences guessing.
“[I want to] just contribute in any way I can,” Cruden said.
“Whether that be running Australia's patterns against our starters, or if I'm given a chance to run in the team, to direct the boys around the paddock.”
Cruden was an unused sub against the Wallabies in Sydney last weekend, meaning that he hasn't played since the Super Rugby final on August 4.
As the All Blacks have a bye next weekend, there is the opportunity for Cruden to play for Manawatu against Auckland at Eden Park on the Sunday.
He doesn't know yet if he'll be released to play for the Turbos, but is keen for a run.
“Every individual will have a chat with the coaches and individual plans will be made,” he said.
Otago's Ben Smith is in a similar position to Cruden, in that he was also an unused sub last weekend, and is keen for a chance to play against Bay of Plenty next Thursday.
“If I'm not getting game time, I'd love to get a chance to play for the Otago team at some stage,” he said. “But I have got to take that as it comes and we'll see what happens.”
- © Fairfax NZ News
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