‘Cru­den could still have a role’

EL­I­GI­BIL­ITY: COACH THINKS PLAY­MAKER CAN BE PICKED

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - Welling­ton

Aaron Cru­den may still have a role to play for the All Blacks this year be­fore the Chiefs fly­half swaps Su­per Rugby for Ja­pan’s Top League, new na­tional coach Ian Foster has said.

The 31-year-old, who re­turned to the Chiefs for the 2020 sea­son af­ter cut­ting short a con­tract in France, will head to Kobe later this year and has played down sug­ges­tions he could be re­called to the na­tional side.

Over­seas-based play­ers are not el­i­gi­ble for All Blacks se­lec­tion, a pol­icy seen as key to avoid­ing a drain of tal­ent to north­ern hemi­sphere clubs.

Cru­den has been in strong form in the first two weeks of Su­per Rugby and Foster, who watched the Chiefs beat the Cru­saders last Satur­day, said he thought the fly­half was el­i­gi­ble for All Blacks se­lec­tion.

“I think so,” Foster told Sky Sports late on Tues­day, when asked if Cru­den was avail­able for tests against Wales and Scot­land in July and pos­si­bly the south­ern hemi­sphere’s Rugby Cham­pi­onship.

“To be fair we know he’s off to Ja­pan at the end of the year and what that looks like I don’t know the ex­act de­tail.

“But I’d like to think so.” Cru­den played 50 tests for the All Blacks be­fore leav­ing New Zealand for France af­ter the 2017 Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions tour.

He was con­sid­ered heir ap­par­ent to all-time great Dan Carter af­ter the 2015 Rugby World Cup but in­jury saw him sup­planted by Beau­den Bar­rett.

Foster has not ruled out con­tin­u­ing to play Bar­rett at full­back in a dual-play­maker sys­tem the All Blacks utilised last year with Richie Mo’unga at fly­half.

The Otago High­landers’ Josh Ioane, who was part of the All Blacks squad last year be­fore mak­ing his test de­but against Tonga just be­fore the World Cup in Ja­pan, could also be in the reck­on­ing.

Foster, who served as Steve Hansen’s as­sis­tant for eight years be­fore suc­ceed­ing his former boss last De­cem­ber, said he was ex­cited about the fu­ture di­rec­tion of the side.

A tough re­view fol­low­ing their World Cup semi­fi­nal loss to Eng­land had al­lowed him to look at what the side should be do­ing in the fu­ture, he added.

“No­body in the play­ing group had lost a World Cup game,” he said. “Now we know what it feels like and it’s not nice.

“That’s got to fuel the next gen­er­a­tion. We want to be num­ber one, we’re not, and it hurt.”

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

AARON CRU­DEN

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