DAVE RENNIE was tight-lipped about the prospect of Aaron Cruden joining Glasgow Warriors next season, when he was quizzed earlier today [Friday] about a recent report in The Sunday Times which linked the former All Blacks playmaker with the club.
With Stuart Hogg leaving the club this summer and Finn Russell having departed last summer, there is concern amongst Warriors fans that the team’s back-line will lack experience and firepower next season, and the recruitment of Cruden would certainly go a long way towards addressing that. But whether the SRU would be willing and able to put together a financial package big enough to lure the player to Scotland remains to be seen.
Cruden joined Montpellier on a three-year deal in the summer of 2017, but recent reports have indicated that it as a “two plus one” arrangement with the final 12 months being at his and the club’s discretion.
Rennie and Cruden go back a long way to when they were coach and captain of the New Zealand Under-20s side which won the Junior World Championship in 2009. Cruden was also Rennie’s stand-off at Manawatu Turbos (where Warriors backs coach Jason O’Halloran was also on the staff) between 2008 and 2011, and they were then reunited at the Chiefs during the franchise’s back-to-back Super Rugby title successes in 2012 and 2013.
“It was just the perfect style of coach that fitted with the player I wanted to come,” said Cruden in 2017, when asked by the BBC about his relationship with Rennie. Other Chiefs players used to joke that he was the coach’s ‘fourth son’.
Rennie revealed earlier this week that the club are set to announce a number of new signings over the next few weeks, but wouldn’t be drawn today on whether Cruden might be one of the new names on the roster for next season.
“I’ve worked a lot with Aaron in the past, he’s a good man and a hell of a player – I hear there’s a bit of speculation out there,” he said. “We are not in a position to talk about any contracts until they are signed. There are a few announcements to be made so we will let you know when everything is sorted.
“I’m not too fussed about bringing big names in. What we’re looking for is quality. Sometimes they are rough diamonds and sometimes we’re trying to bring guys through from a Scottish perspective. We’re looking for the right fit for us, whether they are a big name or not. We have a responsibility to identify Scottish talent but we need to fill some holes in certain areas with guys who can’t play for Scotland.
“We are pretty advanced in our contracting. We’re going to have a good side. I think it will be a little bit stronger than what we’ve got now, which is exciting.”
Focus on Leinster
Of more immediate concern to Rennie is tomorrow’s clash against Leinster at the RDS Arena in Dublin, with Warriors really needing a positive result in that match to keep their noses ahead of Munster – who are away to Benetton – in the race to finish top of Conference A of the PRO14, and thereby securing a favourable draw in the end of season play-offs.
Warriors are currently three points ahead of Munster with only one more round of matches to be played after this weekend.
“Leinster are a quality side, they are really tough at home and they have an amazing record there,” acknowledged Rennie. “But we have a good side and we need to build on what we did last week against Ulster.
“They have a very strong front-row on the bench. They are missing a couple, and likewise with us from an injury perspective. But it’s been a phenomenal year with regard to the footy they have put out. They haven’t used a lot of their top dogs in a number of games and they have got the job done. They have amazing depth, so we expect a tough one.
“They are talking really positively and have some guys coming back who are important to them, who have not played much footy recently. It is a big game for them. We are not going to get sucked into any of that. We have to be at our best and we want to build into the play-offs rather than stuttering in like we did last year.”
Easing injury list
Rennie’s team is boosted by the return from injury of Huw Jones, who will look to make an impact off the bench, while a few more of his walking wounded could come back into contention for either the team’s final league match against Edinburgh on 27th April or the play-offs.
“Oli Kebble is improving [from a back injury] and if we had a game next week he would be ready to go. Siua Halanukonuka took a knock to the shoulder and came off pretty quickly last week but we are hoping he will be right for Edinburgh.
“Ryan Wilson is targeting the Edinburgh game – we hope we will get him out there. There are two or three others who may be close. We would expect Callum Gibbins to be right for that game.
“With people like Nick Grigg, Lee Jones and DTH van to Merwe, we would have to get deep into the play-offs for those guys to figure.
“George Turner is clear – he got back to normal very quickly, as he does – but he has had a series of concussions over the last year or so, so we are being really cautious with him. He’s having a block of time out and may not come back in time for the play-offs. We will make a call on that.”