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Ex-All Black Aaron Cruden emerges as a candidate for Ireland move

By Neil Fissler
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ulster are considering a move for veteran former All Blacks playmaker Aaron Cruden as they look to increase their options at fly-half for next season following Billy Burns’s departure to Irish rivals Munster.

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Ulster intended to play scrum-half Nathan Doak at fly-half but are now rethinking the plan after he started their last three games in the outside-half position, two of which have ended in defeat.

They have launched a worldwide search to see who is available, and whispers are that they have been looking at Cruden, 35, who scored two tries in four appearances for Waikato in last season’s NPC.

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Cruden signed his first Hurricanes contract in 2010 and is without a club after three seasons in Japan (two with the Kobelco Kobe Steelers and one with Tokyo Sungoliath) before returning home.

But cash could be a problem with Ulster being forced into making cutbacks after losing nearly £1 million in the 2022-23 season, and they have earmarked a budget of around £150,000 to bring someone in.

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And that might not be enough to tempt the 50-times-capped Cruden into uprooting his wife and two young children, both under five, to the other side of the world unless the offer was far too good to turn down.

Cruden, after rejoining Waikato, said that he would be keeping his options open for 2024 and wouldn’t rule out continuing his playing career or even moving into coaching.

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“I don’t know, to be fair… I’m not actively looking right now… not looking too far ahead, we’ll just see what comes,” he told the New Zealand media.

Adding: “If you’d asked me early on in my career, I probably would have said no to coaching, but now I’m getting closer to the end of it, I’m thinking it could be a potential avenue I want to explore.”

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Abe 2 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

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Turlough 7 hours ago
Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss

First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

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