Rugby: Second-best No 10 in the world?

Photo from Reuters.
Photo from Reuters.
They are a greedy bunch, these All Blacks - not content to have the best first five in world rugby, they may in Aaron Cruden also have the second-best.

The idea of Cruden being No2 in the world is not quite the random and baseless one it may have been earlier this year.

Dropped into the starting team late in Cardiff after Daniel Carter's sudden withdrawal, Cruden provided much the same portfolio as the great man.

It was probably the best test Cruden has produced in eight starts.

His 24-minute cameo against Ireland in June was memorable but his work in Wales ticked more boxes and allayed doubts about his tactical command and ability to kick, direct and generally impose himself.

Cruden was more commanding, more in control and more able to channel the flow.

A few hours earlier at Twickenham, Toby Flood and Owen Farrell had been content to be shaped rather than shapers in England's defeat to South Africa. There is no doubt, of the first fives on show in a big weekend of rugby, Cruden was the best.

"He was outstanding," effused Hansen. "I thought he drove us around the park for those 60 minutes really well. His kicking game ... a couple of years ago he didn't have a kicking game, and today he was pin-point and his goal-kicking ... you can't ask any more than that.

"Here is a guy who was just dropped in on Thursday, so here is a guy who has got to be proud of the way he prepared, because you don't get performances like that unless you are preparing to play the whole time."

Should Cruden start this week in London, it will be the perfect opportunity for him to tick another important box - consistency. His performance in Cardiff confirms he can play the director role and he will be asked to deliver again.

Cruden believes he has a better mental approach than he had a few years ago.

"When I first made the team a few years ago I focused more on it being a big step up and didn't really get out there and play," he said.

"I didn't really enjoy the occasion; I was more worried about making mistakes.

"But in the last couple of years I have just tried to go out there and play my natural game and enjoy my footy and be really clear in my role."

• By Gregor Paul of the Herald on Sunday in Cardiff