Rugby Union

Aaron Cruden remains in New Zealand exile

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New Zealand international Aaron Cruden is still in the bad books of the All Blacks selectors as he continues to be frozen out of the squad ahead of this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup.

ESPNscrum reports that Beauden Barrett has been handed the kicking duties once again as they take on rivals Australia in their third match this year. Cruden was given a two-match ban after failing to make it to the airport as New Zealand travelled to Argentina ahead of the final two Rugby Championship games.

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After a 34-13 win over the South American nation, the All Blacks were narrowly beaten by two points against South Africa. Although they still won the title for the third consecutive year since its rebranding in 2012, it ended a run of 22 successive victories.

New Zealand will be hoping to put that right again when they face the Wallabies on Saturday as they look to secure the Bledisloe Cup. They currently lead the three-match series 1-0 after defeating the Aussies 51-20 a week after being held to a draw.

It is a surprise that Cruden has not been selected, especially considering he has been the All Blacks’ best number ten since legend Dan Carter decided to take a six-month sabbatical from rugby.

The 25-year-old, who plays for Super Rugby side Chiefs, had been expected to return to the squad following being dropped for missing the team flight to Argentina after a spending the night before out drinking.

He was replaced by Barrett then, and the 23-year-old will keep his place in the side as he continues to try to impress and battle Cruden for a regular starting berth at fly-half.

Places up for grabs

With the World Cup just around the corner, Barrett will need to put in his best performances now, with Carter also looking to return to the international fray prior to the tournament in England next year.

There is also a chance for Colin Slade to earn himself a permanent place in the All Blacks set-up, as he continues as Barrett’s back-up after being promoted to the senior side from the reserves for the final two Rugby Championship matches.

This is not the only decision coach Steve Hansen has made, as he makes five changes to the squad that lost against the Springboks two weeks ago. Brodie Retallick and Wyatt Crockett have both returned from injury, while Dane Coles comes in to join the latter in the front row.

Flanker Liam Messam has also been called up to replace Jerome Kaino, while World Cup winner Cory Jane will stand-in for the rested Ben Smith.

Rugby Union
New Zeland Rugby
Dan Carter

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