Crotty learns from loss to Wallabies
The classy Cantab admits the All Blacks’ preparation wasn’t right but is buzzing to be on tour, writes Marc Hinton in London.
RYAN Crotty has made a pledge to himself on this All Blacks tour north. It’s a mantra about never for one minute taking for granted the privileged position he now finds himself in.
The 29-year-old Cantab is now an established first-choice All Black – if there’s even such a thing in this fluid group of Steve Hansen’s – and says he still pinches himself over that. He may have 32 test caps now, and will almost certainly line up for No 33 against France in Paris next Sunday (NZT), but he has experienced life on the outside of the greatest rugby team on the planet, and much prefers his current position.
Crotty, of course, was not wanted for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. But like the good southern working-class battler he is, he picked his bottom lip up off the ground and set about regaining his place. By the start of the 2016 season he was part of the new midfield generation, and widely considered the latest ‘‘glue’’ guy that holds the whole backline together.
He is also wearing a smile a mile wide when he bounds up to speak to the Star-Times at the All Blacks’ hotel in leafy Teddington, south-west London, on the Friday before the tour opener against the Barbarians at Twickenham.
‘‘The next four weeks are about driving that personal growth and excitement,’’ he declares, sounding just a little like an infomercial front man. ‘‘We’re on tour together, and it’s not the end-of-year tour, we’re on the northern tour. You’re not thinking about the end. You’re just grateful to be here playing for the All Blacks.
‘‘It’s why it was so cool hearing from some of the new guys this week. They spoke about what it was like getting named, how they were with their families, and how emotional it got. That brings you back to when you first pulled on the jersey. You should never forget how special it is.’’
For Crotty that extends to dealing with probably his first negative experience of this season. Remember, he was out injured when the All Blacks finished the Lions series with a draw and a defeat. But he was there in Brisbane a fortnight back when the New Zealanders stumbled to their second loss of the year (and a new low-water mark under Hansen).
Brisbane hurt. The All Blacks, by their own admission, let themselves down.
One of the first things Hansen and Ian Foster did after arriving in London was to debrief the Brisbane banana skin. No punches were pulled.
‘‘There was a lot of learning,’’ says Crotty. ‘‘Our preparation wasn’t as good as it needed to be. So it was disappointing to look back and think maybe that was a conversation I needed to have or we should have gone over that at training. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
‘‘It was an uncomfortable review, which was good because discomfort creates growth. It’s frustrating that it sometimes takes a loss to get learning. But when you get a performance you’re not happy with, you review a bit deeper.’’
For Crotty that extended to his own game being put under a large microscope by backline guru Ian Foster.
‘‘One of the things I love about this environment is there is always something you can get better at. My scanning in the Aussie game was off. Head on a swivel kind of thing, and if you’re not looking at the right things, you’re not going to be talking to the right people.
‘‘It was frustrating because it’s something that’s been a strength of mine. But Fozzie helped me figure out why, and then we came up with a solution.
‘‘I’m happy where I’m at, but there’s always work, and you’re never complacent. I’ve been in and out of this environment, and if you always work hard, good things inevitably happen.’’
Crotty says the year has had its high points, such as the Albany massacre of the Boks, and the epic victory in Cape Town that revealed the ‘‘character’’ of this group. But in the All Blacks one defeat is one too many, so there remains work to do.
He is happy with the combination he is forming with Sonny Bill Williams and lauds his midfield partner for being ‘‘worldclass defensively’’. He is also revelling in the touring environment: ‘‘The best thing about footy is your mates, and I’ve got the chance make a few new ones now.’’ FRENCH federation president Bernard Laporte has dismissed the evaluation report that recommended South Africa ahead of France and Ireland as host of the 2023 Rugby World Cup as ‘‘nonsense’’, full of blatant errors and a result of incompetence.
World Rugby’s board last week recommended that South Africa host the event, placing France in second position and Ireland in third ahead of the decisive vote by the governing body’s council on November 15.
‘‘We wrote to (World Rugby chairman) Bill Beaumont to point out several blatant errors,’’ Laporte told Reuters. ‘‘I don’t believe in bad faith. I rather think that it’s incompetence.’’
A spokesman for World Rugby said that the governing body was unable to comment on the matter.
South Africa received an overall score of 78.97 per cent in the report to 75.88 for France and 72.25 for Ireland on a selection of weighted criteria.
‘‘How come we are less well marked than South Africa on hotels? They’re saying there are not enough hotel rooms in St Etienne. They hosted Euro 2016 matches, there are 1500 rooms there. It’s nonsense,’’ the former Toulon and France coach said.
Laporte also said that the evaluation was carried out mostly by World Rugby employees and ‘‘not by two auditing firms as it was supposed to be’’. ‘‘We are not happy about that,’’ he said.
South Africa earned better marks than France on stadium plans. South Africa benefits from facilities from the 2010 football World Cup, but Laporte said that France was also well-served, having staged the European soccer championship last year.
‘‘They’re saying we don’t own the stadiums. Of course we don’t own them, but the cities and the French football league have committed to freeing the stadiums for the World Cup, yet they (World Rugby) say the are not so sure,’’ said Laporte, who also noted that the French federation’s total financial return would be £536 million (NZ$1.01 billion) – £64m more than South Africa’s.
However, Laporte was confident France can still convince enough people to vote for his country on November 15.
‘‘The match has not begun yet,’’ he said. ‘‘And even Ireland are still in the competition. It is not up to World Rugby employees to decide who hosts the World Cup. It’s up to the federation presidents.’’ - Reuters
Rob Thompson offloads in the tackle for New Zealand Maori against Canada in Vancouver yesterday.
Midfielder Ryan Crotty.