Cruden and Beale back in action
February 3, 2012
Aaron Cruden has not played since the Rugby World Cup Final © Getty Images
All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden played his first game since the Rugby World Cup Final as the Chiefs routed the Melbourne Rebels in a Super Rugby trial match on Friday.
The Kiwi side - who finished bottom of the New Zealand conference last season - ran in six tries in Geelong, completing a 36-0 victory with minimal fuss.
While Cruden made his return from a knee injury, fellow new recruit Sonny Bill Williams sat out as he prepares for his next foray into the boxing ring.
The Rebels gave run-outs to new recruits James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, attracting a crowd of 3,000 in the process.
Beale looked particularly sharp on his comeback from a hamstring problem, although he will continue to manage his workload after a long lay-off.
''The body felt good. There were a few little bursts out there that definitely filled the lungs and knocked a few cobwebs around,'' Beale told The Age. ''I'm ready to go [against the Blues next weekend].''
Meanwhile, a hat-trick from centre Ryan Crotty helped the Crusaders - last year's beaten finalists - to a comfortable 47-19 victory over the Highlanders at Rugby Park in Greymouth in their pre-season opener.
And the Blues, led by Jerome Kaino in the absence of Keven Mealamu, opened their pre-season account with a convincing 36-22 victory over the Hurricanes in Whangarei on Saturday.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
"People on the outside think unfounded thoughts on Toulon." Tom Hamilton talks to RCT lock Nick Kennedy ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup final against Clermont
Will Genia should lead the Wallabies against the Lions, Joe Tomane to win the final wing spot and Israel Folau at fullback, writes Greg Growden
"Has there ever been such a large disconnect between France's club teams and the international side?" Ian Moriarty weighs up the state of French rugby
"By carrying a Great Britain label to the Antipodes, and getting beaten by the Kiwis, they established a tradition which has lasted to this day." Huw Richards rewinds to 1888