Ireland target Cruden

2012-06-22 07:44
Aaron Cruden (AFP)

Hamilton - Ireland will target fledgling All Blacks flyhalf Aaron Cruden on Saturday as they aim to end their tour of New Zealand on a high with their first ever win against the All Blacks.

Talismanic captain Brian O'Driscoll declared "the period of mourning is over" after Ireland's heart-breaking 22-19 loss in last week's second Test, sealed by a last-minute Dan Carter drop goal.

With Carter sidelined by a hamstring injury, Ireland will throw everything at replacement pivot Cruden, who is full of attacking flair but has lingering questions over his defensive qualities.

It will be only the third start in 11 Tests for the 23-year-old, who was also called up for the World Cup last year when Carter was injured.

"I think if we can do the right things in terms of the space that we give him -- and if we want to give him more space or less space depending on how we want to approach it - think that's the key," said Ireland backs coach Les Kiss.

The Test is Ireland's last chance on this tour to end their 107-year winless streak against the All Blacks, although they went desperately close last week in a terrific response from their 42-10 hiding in the first Test.

O'Driscoll led a rushed defence that bottled up the All Blacks attacking outside backs, and Kiss indicated that play has been tweaked further to take Cruden into account.

Team analysts have produced a profile of Cruden showing how he works with his Waikato Chiefs team-mates Sonny Bill Williams, Liam Messam and Sam Cane, who will also be with him in the All Blacks.

"It's important to understand what his strengths are and areas that might challenge him a little bit, and we've gone through some footage for sure," Kiss said.

"I know the Chiefs, on a five-man defence, they put him out wide, second to last defender.

"But they didn't do that (in the World Cup), he stayed in the near channel so I think they'll probably stick to what the All Blacks do and keep him in the close channel because they'll back him in defence."

With the ball, Cruden is seen as "a slippery character" with the ability to carve up any side "and we've got to make sure we close the space around him effectively".

The All Blacks have made six changes to their run-on side, partly enforced by injuries to Carter and number eight Kieran Read, while Ireland have changed three.

Munster flyer Keith Earls returns from injury on the left wing, Peter O'Mahony takes over at number eight from Jamie Heaslip, and replacement inside centre Paddy Wallace has been rushed into the midfield.

Wallace only arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday night, giving the player listed at 81 kilos (178 pounds) just four days to get over jetlag and prepare to mark the 108-kilo Williams.

But O’Driscoll expressed confidence in Wallace's ability to add a new dimension to the backline.

"Any time you have someone like Paddy coming in, he will always bring something. Not just his playing ability but the character he is around the squad," he said.

"Knowing the type of professional he is, the shape that he has kept himself in, Paddy will do an excellent job."

Read more on:    aaron cruden  |  rugby

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