Crotty's return completes long-term goal

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Having missed selection in the 2015 Rugby World Cup squad he had set himself a goal of making the 2019 side.

 

Missing the end of the Crusaders' successful Investec Super Rugby campaign, he put his faith in the medical staff and arrived back on schedule to play half a Mitre 10 Cup game for Canterbury, scoring two tries last weekend.

 

That was enough to be selected for Saturday's Test with Tonga, a game that will be his last Test in New Zealand before taking up an overseas contract after the World Cup.

 

But Crotty said the challenge of being part of a World Cup challenge had always been a motivating factor in his rugby.

 

"It's [the All Blacks] a very special group to be part of, and [I'm] just grateful for the opportunity. I really enjoy being in this environment, I've got a lot of special friends in the group, so I'm really stoked to be back and really excited."

 

Crotty said he thought his thumb was stronger than when he broke it two months ago.

 

"The surgeon did a great job, he was pretty cautious with it but I'm really grateful for how diligent he was getting me back to playing again and I'm ready to go.

 

"You just trust the experts and follow the plan that's set in place. Even though you're itching to get back out there and play, you've kind of got to pull back a wee bit and listen to their advice. It was just bone healing and it was eight weeks until the bone was healed good enough to play again. I just had to listen to their advice and I'm glad I did," he said.

 

There was still some nervousness ahead of the final squad announcement.

 

"I know what it's like to get the phone call to say that you're not coming. So you're always nervous and I was grateful that I got the call."

 

Gaining selection had justified a lot of the decisions he had made to reach that point.

 

"Getting named is only half of it, there's still a massive job ahead," he said.

 

Saturday would be his 45th Test match in a career affected by injury setbacks. But for all that he had enjoyed his final season in New Zealand with a lot of special moments over the last few months. That would make Saturday special for him.

 

"Last Test match in New Zealand for a lot of guys to pull on the black jersey here. You never make it about the individual, but it's pretty special for a lot of guys. So they'll want to put on a performance befitting of that. Any Test match you get to pull on the black jersey is a special one, and this is no different.

 

"My family will be coming up, so it means a lot. Playing for the All Blacks, you see what it means to a lot of other people for your success. I'm getting a bit emotional talking about it. It's a massive game for me and I'm really excited about it.

 

"We want a high level performance as a team [against Tonga], we want to play well," he said.

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