Cruden to fill Carter's shoes

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Aaron Cruden (Getty Images)
Aaron Cruden (Getty Images)

Auckland - All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said the confidence Aaron Cruden has shown since being drafted into the New Zealand squad meant the fly-half could boss Sunday's World Cup semifinal against Australia.

Cruden has come in after star flyhalf Daniel Carter and stand-in Colin Slade were both ruled out of the tournament with groin injuries and will start in the pivotal play-making role against Australia here at Eden Park.

But McCaw said the way Cruden immediately started ordering his forwards around in training was just what was required of a flyhalf.

"That's what you expect from a number 10," McCaw said Saturday. "The fact he wanted to do that straight away tells you a bit about the confidence he has."

The 22-year-old Cruden has made only seven Test appearances, and started just the one international, against Australia in September last year.

It was a game New Zealand eventually won 23-22, but Cruden, who later admitted he was nervous and put too much pressure on himself, was replaced by Slade in the second half.

"Sometimes when it gets taken away from you, you realise how much you miss it," the 101-times capped McCaw said of playing Test rugby.

"From what I've seen over the year he's excited about being back and realises how special it is to be in the All Blacks.

"He wants to take his chance. Over the last week, it feels like he's been here a while. He wants to go out and perform."

McCaw added that it would be imperative for scrumhalf Piri Weepu, and the seasoned midfield combination of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, to help Cruden find his feet.

"At 10, you effectively run the game and you need to give him confidence to help him do that," the openside flanker said.

"He's the man in that jersey who needs to dictate what happens, he wants to do it and that's great."

Assistant coach Wayne Smith said Cruden, who had to undergo surgery and chemotherapy after being diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2008, had "done remarkably well".

"To think that two or three weeks ago he was falling off his skateboard, then he comes in to a quarter-final of the World Cup," Smith said.

"To play with the excitement and confidence he played with was really promising. Another week under the belt has been good for him.

"The players have been great with him and you can really see the belief other players have in him and that makes him feel good and I'm sure he'll go out and have a great game," added Smith, himself a former All Blacks fly-half.

"He's a mature young man, he's been through a lot, it's been well publicised in terms of his cancer scare.

"He's just a well put together young man. He's got strong drive to do well, a strong drive to be in the team and help this team win."

McCaw added his nagging foot injury was fine, despite the back-row forward missing training this week.

"The foot's good, really good," he said. "It's good to go."

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