Crotty confident in health

Ryan Crotty catches a pass at All Blacks training. Photo: Getty Images
Ryan Crotty catches a pass at All Blacks training. Photo: Getty Images
As touched as he has been to be the cause of so much national concern, Ryan Crotty is eager to be back in the test arena to prove there is no need for anyone to worry about his health.

The All Blacks midfielder became the subject of much debate following the first Bledisloe Cup clash of the year when he was knocked out after 12 minutes and suffered his sixth concussion in the 20 months.

The sight of him being helped off the field, blood pouring from his mouth after an accidental head collision with team-mate Jack Goodhue, sparked some commentators to suggest Crotty should give up and retire from all rugby.

The discussion intensified when it was discovered that his sister had tweeted her concerns and also wondered whether her older brother was taking too many risks with his health.

But despite the consternation, Crotty was cleared by a specialist the morning after the test. He wasn't made available for selection as the All Blacks have an internal policy of not picking players seven days after they have been knocked out.

He could have played against Argentina last week, but again, the All Blacks wanted to give him another week off and also to give some game time to an emerging group of players.

Crotty is back in the No 12 jersey this Saturday, though, as the All Blacks want their most experienced team on the park to face what they believe will be a torrid physical assault by the Springboks.

And for Crotty, that's as much a source of relief as it is excitement as the last few weeks have seen him inundated with well-wishers, which has been both touching and frustrating.

"A lot of people have asked me [how I am] and I guess the support from the public has been really nice," he says.

"It is awesome that people care and genuinely hope you are doing all right. But I am feeling fresh.

"I have gone through all the processes and have been extremely diligent and I am confident that if I wasn't I wouldn't be here.

"Like anyone's mother and sister they tend to worry about you more than anyone else. I have had to convince them I am all right.

"There is no stone left unturned around head injuries. I have felt the love.

"There are some stringent guidelines around this team and that gives you real confidence you are being well looked after."

Now that he's back, Crotty's focus is not on proving he's healthy, but on sparking up a partnership with Anton Lienert-Brown.

The All Blacks had been hoping to enjoy consistency of selection in their midfield this year and came into the series against France hoping they would be able to extend the game time of their preferred pairing which is Sonny Bill Williams and Crotty.

However, a knee injury prevented Williams from taking a full part in June and a shoulder injury followed by illness has kept him out of the Rugby Championship to date.

Crotty has had to miss three games because of injury this year and with Ngani Laumape also ruled out due to knee damage, the All Blacks have had to select four different combinations in the six tests so far this year.

Crotty and Lienert-Brown, who will play together in Wellington, are in fact the most used combination so far in 2018 having started the first two tests of the year.

They also played a handful of tests together in 2016 and Crotty says the form of the younger man has been impressive in recent weeks.

"He's playing awesome and all the boys in the midfield have been playing really well," says Crotty.

"You have seen Jack [Goodhue] play well and Ngani has taken his opportunity really well and I think that is a product of how hard the group works together.

"Alby [Lienert-Brown] is a really switched on young man and better people make better rugby players and that is the case with Anton."

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