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Matured Cruden taps into zen

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/11/2016 Angelo Risso

Aaron Cruden at training with the All Blacks © Getty Images Aaron Cruden at training with the All Blacks Italians understand more than most the value of a good work-life balance, so you'd imagine La Bella Roma suits Aaron Cruden down to a tee.

The All Blacks first-five, 27, has endured a frustrating 2016 Test campaign, starting out in the No.10 jumper before injuries and the galvanic Beauden Barrett pushed him to the bench.

But where Cruden would have once obsessed about his predicament, he's now using all of his 44-cap experience to develop an Italian-esque sense of perspective.

The peninsula was rated above-average in work-life balance and health in 2015's OECD Better Life Index, and the Chiefs gun says he's taken a leaf from the Italians' book to unwind.

He's been tucking into paperbacks daily, currently reading the Robin Sharma self-help bestseller The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, and exploring his surrounds on tour.

And after adding stability from the bench in last week's surprise loss to Ireland, Cruden has been restored to the No.10 jumper for Saturday's clash with the Italians.

"As a young fella, I was pretty keen and eager and probably didn't quite get that balance right, it was probably a little bit detrimental," Cruden said.

"Being able to turn it off, decompress, enjoy your friends' company, teammates' company, and get out there and experience some different cultures is pretty important.

"I'm trying to always paint a colourful life."

A World Cup winner in 2011 and long-time All Black, Cruden made three appearances off the bench in the Rugby Championship, as well as in the third Bledisloe dead rubber.

Entering the fray mid-match meant dissecting the flow of the game quickly and providing an assured presence as defences tired, he said.

"It's about keeping your emotions in check, being really clear and decisive when you get out there and make the most of each opportunity."

Speculation continues to mount linking the Palmerston North native to a more permanent move to Europe, with French club Montpellier reportedly mounting a lucrative deal.

But Cruden brushed off the rumours, saying his focus is on the All Blacks until the tour ends on November 26 in Paris.

He expected opposite first-five Carlo Canna to provide plenty of competition at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday, and for Gli Azzurri to mix up their conventional gritty approach.

"They're making a lot of changes in the way they like to play, traditionally their forwards are very strong but now they've got some young exciting backs," Cruden said.

"Defensively we need to be aware of that, try and shut it down at the source, and then bring some line speed to limit opportunities."

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