Cruden's injury will test Chiefs and All Blacks
James Mortimer 09 Apr 2014 Getty Images
Carter is currently on extended leave away from rugby, and while he is undergoing a program to ‘repair’ a body that has played over two hundred All Blacks and Investec Super Rugby matches, he will return without significant game time even if the man himself has hinted he may play some club rugby towards the end of his break.
Carter’s class suggests few issues if he has to rush back into the setup, but one suspects the selectors would be keen not to rely heavily on the 100-Test first five eighth as the 2014 southern international campaign begins.
Barrett continues to develop and easily ignites the Hurricanes attack, but some might suggest his kicking game or defence isn’t yet the match of his fellow international 10s, however his ball in hand game is arguably more lethal than any other playmaker.
It wouldn’t be fictional to state that Cruden is, based on form, the country’s dominant first five-eighth and would be one of the first players in All Blacks coach Steve Hansen’s notebook.
The 25-year-old’s broken thumb could be right for action within six weeks, but conservatively Cruden will not be ready to play until June, meaning the Chiefs number 10 will have little or no game time before being required for duties against the Red Rose.
The All Blacks coaching team will potentially have their two senior playmakers – in Carter and Cruden – enter a major Test series against the 2015 Rugby World Cup hosts with little match hardening.
Colin Slade, Tom Taylor and a potential bolter could be an option, but one suspects there will be little straying from an established top three of first fives.
While Carter may have had some injuries in recent years, Cruden has been essentially bulletproof.
The Palmerston North born maestro, who weighs at the most 84kg dripping wet, has overcome testicular cancer, and has put together an incredible Investec Super Rugby record - this will be the first time he will miss action with the Chiefs due to injury since 2011.
Forty-two matches without interruption is a true mark of warrior, and the two-time champions will be worse off without their diminutive general.
Gareth Anscombe, who will likely replace Cruden, brings a wide portfolio to the position, while Andrew Horrell, Ihaia West (part of the team’s wider training group) and Tim Nanai-Williams could play at first receiver.
The Chiefs host the Rebels and Crusaders over the next fortnight.
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