IMAGES OF KAI SCHWOERER / GETTY
Ryan Crotty tries to break off an attack on the hurricanes in Christchurch earlier this year.
The pain of missing All Blacks' selection for the Rugby World Cup in 2015 will boost Ryan Crotty as he pursues a dream final.
Crotty, a veteran midfielder for Crusaders, will leave New Zealand Rugby at the end of the year after signing with Japanese club Kubota Spears.
The 30-year-old in his 11th season with his hometown Crusaders would not love anything better than giving up with a third consecutive Super Rugby title. He was one of the unfortunate names to be overlooked for the 2015 World Cup and said winning the selection for the 2019 tournament and capturing the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan would be a fairytale farewell.
Crotty has played 44 tests since his debut in 2013, and, except for injury, is almost certain to be in a midfield group where there is no shortage of candidates.
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Absent from the 2015 tournament, but Crotty believed it only increased his desire to force his way back.
"Remembering back was very difficult but a bit of adversity and you learn from it.
"I think I've grown a lot by losing it and part of the reason I've been around for so long is trying and having that opportunity and I feel like I've done everything I could to try and do that."
Crotty spoke hoarsely at a news conference Tuesday, having been kicked out in Friday's 32-8 win over the Hurricanes, where he elbowed his throat.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has confirmed that Crotty is healthy in Saturday's showdown with Brumbies in Christchurch – the first home game in the city since the March 15 mosque shootings, where 50 people were killed.
The crusaders managed to get to Robertson's side, saying All Blacks captain Kieran Read, who had a double leg bruise against the hurricanes, was available. All Blacks props Owen Franks (neck) and Joe Moody (ankle) were both promising with the status of Wing George Bridge (tight hamstring) to be known later this week.
Crotty has accumulated 142 Super Rugby caps, all with the Crusaders, and will leave a huge hole in the midfield when finished after this season.
Robertson described him as the leader of his backline and a defensive rock. While the midfield competition for the World Cup will be fierce, Robertson had little doubt that Crotty would be on the team.
"We know he can play internationally consistently and when his body is right, he's as good as any sock in the world."
"Their ability to stay calm and make the right calls and decision making is their point of difference. They will have to take it [to the World Cup] I believe. "
Crotty was highly regarded in the Crusader environment, not just for its reliability and impact in the field. The contribution he made to the culture of his team and the way he took younger team members under his wing was admirable, Robertson said.
Crotty was a key man in the organization of the Friday night team dinners before the games, where the Crusaders choose a different restaurant and mix their robes every time, which he often selects.
"He does a lot of extracurricular activities," Robertson said.
"He's very picky in his approach to his looks. He's one of the best seconds in world rugby, I guess."
As for Japan's attraction, Crotty said there were several offers, but Kubota's rugby vision and familiar atmosphere impressed him.
There was no doubt that ending his career in Japan was attractive due to the physical blows and various concussions he suffered while playing in New Zealand.
Top League of Japan is a world away from the uncompromising Kiwi derbies, where players' bodies have to withstand a lot and just lost love.
The card draw of his first Rugby World Cup was a strong motivation to keep him in New Zealand in recent years, where he signed one-year contracts.
"[That’s] probably the reason I stayed for so long is to have the opportunity to play in one of those [World Cups], but this only happens by representing your franchise at a high level. "