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Hansen: Cruden is ready to go

Friday, June 06, 2014

AUCKLAND - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is confident Aaron Cruden is ready to do the job against England despite limited game time.

Cruden has been handed the starting five eighth role jersey ahead of the in-form Beauden Barrett for the first Test in Auckland on Saturday night.

The Chiefs co-captain returned to Super Rugby two rounds ago after six weeks out with a broken thumb.

Hansen says factors in Cruden's favour include his status as the incumbent and the feeling that he plays better as a starter than coming off the bench.

"He's had a couple of games under his belt and he's back to his cheeky self around here, so we just think he's ready to go."

"He's a good reader of the game, he's a good organiser and I believe he's really comfortable now in that role."

Hansen said team selection was pretty much in place a week ago, with injuries to No.8 Kieran Read, back up openside flanker Sam Cane and winger Julian Savea causing changes.

Read's replacement is Jerome Kaino, who will make his return to the All Blacks after two seasons in Japan.

When Kaino runs out at Eden Park, he will make his 49th Test appearance, and his first since the World Cup final victory against France at the same ground in October 2011.

The 31-year-old has been in excellent form for the Blues, as seen by his huge effort in the win over the Hurricanes.

Hansen said he didn't want Kaino to leave New Zealand in the first place but the player told him at the time that he intended coming back.

"He's come back at the right time, which is great," Hansen said.

"I think he's like a caged animal. He's pretty keen to get out there."

NEW ZEALAND: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Cory Jane, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.

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