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Cruden makes most of his moment

Published: 8:34AM Monday October 10, 2011 Source: ONE Sport

Aaron Cruden has survived a baptism of fire and come out looking like a saviour for the All Blacks after being thrown in the deep end in last night's do or die match against Argentina.

Cruden, 22, replaced the injured Colin Slade in the 32nd minute , and looked assured and totally at ease in his role. He featured in one superb break with second five Ma'a Nonu, nearly dotting down in the process, and also slotted a late conversion after Weepu finished his work for the night in the 73rd minute.

But Cruden admitted afterwards he had been nervous.

"The guys around me gave me confidence to get out there and play my natural game," the star Manawatu and Hurricanes player said.

"There was a lot of nerves and a lot excitement, but I am just grateful to be given the opportunity and I think it went reasonably well."

He said the past few weeks had been surreal after being called into the squad on the back of Dan Carter's Cup-ending injury.

"It is really strange. It was unfortunate that I got the opportunity through Dan's injury. I just want to do him proud and New Zealand proud.

"I was pretty nervous, but I knew I had a job to do. A week ago I was watching the games on TV and now I'm playing in them. It is surreal.

"I was supposed to be on holiday now. I'd probably be in LA doing the Disneyland thing. But the holiday can wait."

ONE News rugby reporter Stephen Stuart, who has watched Cruden playing for the Hurricanes for the past two years, said Cruden has stepped right up .

Stuart, a big Cruden fan, picked that regardless of injury Slade would not get back on the park.

But he said last night it was Cruden's Hurricanes team-mate Piri Weepu who undoubtedly made things a little easier for him.

"With Piri Weepu kicking like that, it takes the pressure off the young first five."

Stuart said he wondered whether the next match would see Cruden start or the All Blacks selectors play safe by putting Weepu at first-five.

"I don't think deep down Piri Weepu is seen as a Test first five. He's a very good makeshift first five," Stuart told TV ONE's Breakfast.

ONE Sport reporter Toni Street said the All Blacks will need to be clear about each player's role if Weepu remains at half-back but keeps the kicking role. Weepu slotted 7 from 8 last night.

"The problem with this whole first five sharing the duties is that it does create confusion," Street told Breakfast.

"I was relieved last night to see Weepu taking control because he controls the game better in my opinion, but the problem is when it comes to that drop goal that we need in the dying minutes, who is going to take it, is it Weepu, is it Slade?"

But Stuart doubts it will be Slade - he's predicting he won't be named in the team again this tournament.

"I think the All Blacks had to be seen to be giving Colin Slade the best possible chance," Stuart said.

"They did, and I think we won't see him again at this tournament sadly for him."

The All Blacks take on Australia in the second semi-final this Sunday, Eden Park at 9pm.

See the player ratings for the quarter final .

See Martin Devlin and Street debate Weepu at first-five .

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