It was not quite like that at Cardiff today as the All Blacks
played without their premier five eighths Daniel Carter who
is troubled by a lower leg injury.
However, replacement pivot Aaron Cruden showed what a nifty
and gritty performer he is with an all round display which
kept the All Blacks on track and the heat on Wales.
A week ago Cruden produced a mixed offering like many of his
team-mates in a mixed offering against Italy.
Coach Steve Hansen was undeterred and kept the young five
eighths on the field for the entire test. He reasoned the
young five eighths needed the work and subbing him would dent
That decision was fruitful in the final quarter as Cruden and
the All Blacks found a rhythm which had been missing for
large chunks of the test and ran in some late tries.
In private, Hansen was delighted that Cruden had found his
touch and worked his way through some difficult patches.
Those moments would be gold in the future for the young five
eighths and the team.
That proved very prophetic as that future became today when
Cruden stepped out for his 19th test yet only his 8th start
because of Carter's latest leg injury.
Five successful shots at goal from all round the Millennium
Stadium, right and left foot bombs, punts and tactical kicks,
some searching runs and gritty defence was a huge first half
collect from Cruden.
By contrast his opposite Rhys Priestland had fluffed several
attacking kicks for the line and looked less assured than his
All Black counterpart.
He needed to be. Carter's defection was a blow to the All
Blacks who were determined to wipe some of the World Cup
smugness which had oozed out of Wales suggesting they would
have nudged the All Blacks if they got the chance.
They got that today and were deposited heavily on their
backsides by a New Zealand side bereft of Carter.
However Wales will know the name Cruden today as much as they
know the legend of Carter. In future, maybe the 72,372 crowd
will be able to say they were there the day they saw another
It was a rare start as Cruden has watched and learned about
the magic Carter brings to the game. He is being chased hard
by Beauden Barrett, another young five eighths who brings a
different type of game with his skills.
Cruden needed to make a statement for himself and his team,
not in that order but it needed to happen.
The crowd applauded the All Blacks throughout as they
produced some glorious sections of rugby. Welsh great Barry
John was one of them and his applause for Cruden was an
indication of the young man's production.
His game management and decisions were strong, his goal
kicking faultless and his temperament unbroken until he was
subbed with about 12 minutes left.
Carter's injury exit is only temporary but if he is
unavailable next week against England, the All Blacks have a
man in form to take on Twickenham.
- By Wynne Gray in Cardiff