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Clash of five-eighth styles could decide Super Rugby semi spot

Date

Nick Mulvenney

Aaron Cruden is a slender goal-kicking pivot who dictates play from the hand or boot.

Aaron Cruden is a slender goal-kicking pivot who dictates play from the hand or boot. Photo: Getty Images

Aaron Cruden and Matt Toomua bring contrasting styles to rugby's most influential position and the battle between the classic five-eighth and the modern midfield manager could decide Saturday's Super Rugby play-off in Canberra.

Cruden at the Chiefs and Toomua at the Brumbies have played key roles in rescuing their teams from setbacks, dragging them into the first-round of the play-offs for a rerun of last year's final.

A classic No.10, Cruden is a slender goal-kicking pivot who dictates play from the hand or boot and can carve his way through a fissure in the defensive line in the blink of an eye.

The beefier Toomua is an archetypical modern Australian playmaker, equally happy at five-eighth or as a hard-tackling inside-centre, and more likely to offload the ball to dangerous attacking players than make breaks himself.

Not that Toomua can't take matters into his own hands, as he showed with his hat-trick of tries in the 47-25 rout of the Force last weekend, which secured the Brumbies home advantage for Saturday's clash.

It was a rampant display against a previously miserly defence. It will give rugby fans in Australia's capital hopes the Brumbies can avenge the 27-22 defeat in Hamilton last year that gave the Chiefs a second successive title.

Cruden's most notable contribution of the season so far has probably been for the All Blacks, with his quickly taken penalty leading to the late try which killed off England's challenge in the first test of the June series.

Having struggled with the disruption of a broken thumb early in the Super Rugby season, Cruden improved as the series went on and returned from international duty to lead the Chiefs to wins in their last two games, which got them into the play-offs.

The fractured digit meant he missed the 41-23 defeat the Chiefs suffered in Canberra in April – halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow was also absent – and the Chiefs will be a different proposition with their best halfbacks in tandem.

The prize on the line on Saturday is most likely to be a three-hour trip up the Hume Highway to face the Waratahs in a Sydney semi-final – a prospect far more intimidating now than it has been for a good few years.

Toomua was injured for the Brumbies' 39-8 loss to the Waratahs at the end of June, and he would surely relish the chance to face them again, if only to press his claim to retain the Wallabies No.12 shirt from the in-form Kurtley Beale.

He admits Cruden has had the "wood" over him in previous meetings. The All Blacks prevailed when they faced each other at five-eighth in the Rugby Championship two weeks after last year's Super Rugby final.

In at least one department, Cruden is bound to have more influence on Saturday's game – good or bad – than Toomua.

The 25-year-old, who has a 68 per cent success rate from the tee this season, will take on goal-kicking duties for the Chiefs. Toomua is behind Christian Lealiifano, Nic White and Jesse Mogg in the list of preferred goalkickers.

Reuters

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG -1vs FJI -1 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 

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