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New Zealand v France, Rugby World Cup Final, October 23
Cruden seeks Carter's counsel
ESPNscrum Staff
October 18, 2011
All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden faces the media, The Heritage Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand, October 18, 2011
All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden faces the media in the week of the World Cup final © Getty Images
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All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden will seek the counsel of Dan Carter ahead of the biggest match of his rugby career.

The 22-year-old was thrust into the forefront of New Zealand's quest to win the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1987 when Carter, and his replacement Colin Slade, both succumbed to injuries during the tournament.

Carter, who was seen as almost irreplaceable in the All Blacks set-up just a few weeks ago, has returned to Auckland following an operation on his groin and Cruden will seek out the advice of the New Zealand playmaker ahead of the Rugby World Cup final with France on Sunday.

"Dan's always floating around the hotel and he's been really positive, always smiling and laughing with the boys," Cruden said. "He sent me a text before the semi-final wishing me all the best.

"I'll definitely be going to him and just asking him what he thinks about certain things this week and pick his brains so I can be as well prepared as I can come kick-off time on Sunday."

Like many New Zealanders, Cruden has won the World Cup many times over - but only in the confines of imagination. On Sunday he will have the opportunity to do it for real.

"I think every kid did and if they say they didn't then they're lying," he said. "You're always out there practising, maybe kicking the winning goal or scoring the winning try.

"It's something that I've dreamt of since I was a little fellow and something I'm very excited about. "Those are just things you look back on now and think 'wow, I have the opportunity to play in a Rugby World Cup final', and it's going to be pretty special.

"I'm just humbled and blessed to be back in this squad and given this opportunity."

Cruden was initially snubbed for the World Cup squad with Slade preferred as Carter's deputy. But following his call up, the former Hurricanes fly-half performed well as a substitute against Argentina in the quarter final and then took a central role in the All Blacks' semi-final victory over Australia.

Cruden, a survivor of testicular cancer, has impressed the All Blacks' coaching set-up with his ability to cope with the intense pressure of guiding his team towards a first World Cup final since 1995 as well as his improved kicking game.

"The thing that has really impressed me is that we left him out of the end-of-year tour last year for a reason, and we were pretty clear about that and he went away and worked on that," All Blacks assistant coach WayneSmith said.

"I think you've seen the difference there, particularly in his ability to kick and to dominate a game through kicking. I think that's been a big improvement. Like it or not, every All Black inside back needs that ability and he's gone and developed that through a lot of hard work.

"He's always shown composure. He's had bigger challenges in life than this and he's had to bring that courage and ability to handle pressure into this role. He's a pretty special kid I think."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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