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
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
"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
"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