Chiefs co-captain Cruden excited by new role

BEN STRANG
Last updated 05:01 05/02/2014
MIKE SCOTT/FairfaxNZ

Chiefs pivot Aaron Cruden is a the new co-captain joining Liam Messam at the helm of the champion Super Rugby team. Chiefs pivot Aaron Cruden is a the new co-captain joining Liam Messam at the helm of the champion Super Rugby team.

Aaron Cruden
Getty Images
THE MAN: Aaron Cruden celebrates after scoring a try in last year's Super Rugby semifinal win over the Crusaders.

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Aaron Cruden has always been a great leader, but now it's part of his job description.

The Chiefs first-five will be one of the two-time defending Super Rugby champions' co-captains this season, alongside fellow All Black Liam Messam.

He takes over from Craig Clarke, who has left the franchise and is plying his trade in Europe.

"It's a challenge that I'm going to really look forward to throughout the season and hopefully bring my own style to it," Cruden said.

"I don't mind speaking to the referee as a 10. I always try and get in the referee's ear anyway, so now it gives me a bit of a licence to go up and have a chat."

Co-captain Messam lets his actions do the talking on the field, and used to let Clarke do the talking on and off the field last year.

The loose forward has always been good at avoiding public speaking with the team, and Cruden doesn't mind stepping up to fill the gap Clarke leaves.

"He's already said that to me actually," Cruden said. "He does like let his actions do the speaking for him, and he's done that extremely well over the last few years.

"As a 10, I think you're always vocal, but we'll just bounce a few ideas off each other. If Liam's comfortable going to talk to the referee about maybe more things that refer to the forwards, then I'm happy for him to do that.

"And if he wants me to do the same if the referee has a problem with some of the backline stuff that's going on."

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said Cruden was the obvious choice for the co-captaincy, and said he was already a leader in the team.

"He leads regardless. He's part of our leadership group, and as a 10 he's got to implement all of our structures and he does a great job in that regard.

"He's highly respected and we've got a lot of confidence in him. In the end, he's got a 'C' next to his name, but he does that job regardless.

"He's captained the New Zealand 20s to a world title when he was a young fella, the following year he captained Manawatu for a handful of games when the regular skipper was injured.

"It fits him easily. He talks well and leads from the front. We're confident he'll do a good job."

Cruden has only been back in camp since Monday last week, but Rennie said he had already made a big difference to the squad.

The 25-year-old played under Rennie at Manawatu and the New Zealand Under-20s, and said it was good to have the faith of his coaches.

"It's always nice to know that your coaches have a lot of faith in you, and they have a lot of faith in all of the guys involved here.

"For me, it was really nice when Renns gave me the call and asked if I'd like to do the job. It's something I'm pretty proud of."

While he has learned plenty from other leaders in teams he has played for, Cruden said he would have his own style of leadership.

That would be a mixture of his actions in games and training, as well as his chatter on the field.

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Cruden will likely get his first chance to lead the side when the Chiefs play the Reds in a pre-season fixture this weekend in Australia.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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