It's a long way from Bora Bora, but Aaron Cruden is glad to be back in the familiar environment of Chiefs HQ.
The star playmaker has had a memorable break away from rugby, getting married in Manawatu earlier this month and taking off to the luxury island for the honeymoon.
"I've had a really nice break, a really nice summer, good time of the year to get a couple of months off, and now just really excited about being back here and strapping the rugby boots on again," Cruden said.
The 25-year-old returned to duty this week along with his fellow All Blacks, and while he admitted Monday was tough, he was enjoying running around with the boys.
"It was a bit of a shock to the system, first day back and straight off the bat we got a bit of a yo-yo test," he said.
"The lungs and legs suffered a bit.
"Most of the boys are really fit so I sort of tried to grab onto the tails of them and managed to get through a fair bit. All the boys have been working really hard, so the five of us that have come back in a little bit later have to make sure that we show them that we're willing to work hard as well."
While the All Blacks players are the senior pros, Cruden said the roles are reversed some times, as the others have had more time to understand the structures.
"So any questions we have, we've gone to them and they've been really willing to help, and then vice versa as well."
Cruden said he was now looking to get his head around the technical side of the game and how the Chiefs were going to play. After all, he is the man who runs the show from No 10 and who coach Dave Rennie puts the onus on.
"Certainly Aaron coming back in, he's a pretty dominant character, he'll certainly help organise people around him and help others, but he'll be demanding of other guys to chip in and help him do his role," Rennie said.
With back-up first five Gareth Anscombe injured for the first part of the campaign, Cruden is crucial for the Chiefs. And with Dan Carter taking a break from rugby, he will be the go-to man for the three-test series against England in June.
"I haven't thought about it too much I suppose," Cruden said of being the No 1 pivot running around. "He's decided to take his sabbatical, and well deserved I think. So for me it's just making sure I focus here, first and foremost with the Chiefs, and just make sure I do everything I can to, hopefully, be successful here again this year.
"The key is not getting complacent. The last two years we've been able to win the title, but I think we're going to have to take our game to a whole new level we haven't been before so, hopefully, we can get our third title here in the Waikato."
- Waikato Times
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