Dave Rennie helps Cruden make tough call

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 10:02 15/07/2011
Aaron Cruden
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FACTOR: Aaron Cruden has worked with Dave Rennie at age-group level.

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Aaron Cruden said his decision to play for the Chiefs was the toughest he's had to make in his rugby career so far.

The Manawatu first five-eighth will join coach Dave Rennie there, as will Turbos lock Michael FitzGerald, both of whom have now signed with the Chiefs.

It doesn't mean Cruden will be cutting his ties with Manawatu - it seems probable he will sign up again with the Turbos.

As for the Chiefs, Cruden said he ended up going around in circles before deciding. He drew up a list on paper and went through the pros and cons with his family and partner Grace King.

"Even after that was done it was still a really hard decision," he said. "I didn't want to let anyone down.

"I suppose when you've got to make a decision and have a couple of options, someone is going to be disappointed.

"It will be something new, something a little bit out of our comfort zone, something to look forward to."

He said the easy option might have been to just to stick with the Hurricanes where he'd spent the past two seasons, despite the "unusual" happenings there this year.

"It was a bit bizarre really. That didn't have too much bearing on things."

He'd simply tried not to be influenced by things happening off the field.

Cruden acknowledged Rennie as one of his mentors; he enjoys playing the style he coaches and was an influence in the decision to head north.

Many rugby followers are still mystified why Cruden was benched early in the Super Rugby season and he admitted it had been frustrating.

"I had a good chat with the coaches and they gave me a fair indication of why that was. I was hungry to get back into it and when I got the opportunity it was good and I was able to gain back a bit of confidence in the latter part of the season."

He wasn't told he had been doing anything wrong, only putting too much pressure on himself. After being summoned by the All Black selectors twice in less than a year and then being left out, he appeared philosophical about it all yesterday.

"At the end of the day, some people get in and some people don't. The last couple of squads I haven't made, but all I can do is go out and try and perform week in and week out and hopefully get a look in."

Cruden is also only an injury away from the All Blacks, with only two Canterbury first five-eighths picked.

He was disappointed and said if he wasn't, he'd have to focus on why he was playing.

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"Obviously I was disappointed but that's sport; sometimes you make it and some times you don't. You learn from these things, you pick up strength and just have to roll on."

Manawatu is where he has grown up, he wants to excel for the Turbos and he is in contract talks with Manawatu chief executive John Knowles. Cruden doesn't have any other provincial options.

Rennie said he was absolutely rapt to get Cruden at the Chiefs. While they had serious chats about it and talked about the positives of going to Hamilton, the decision had to be his.

"I think we've got a very good coaching group together, who will put a real emphasis on his development and will be playing a style which will give him plenty of opportunities," Rennie said.

Meanwhile, FitzGerald, all 1.97m and 113kg of him, was sad to dip out on a Super Rugby contract this year but the burly builder played in all four games for the Hurricanes Development XV. He's come a long way from Heartland rugby with Wanganui.

"Skill-wise I've definitely stepped up a lot more," he said. "You really benefit from the one-on-one coaching."

- Manawatu Standard

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