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.

Sunday News - - RUGBY -

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.

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