Crotty motivated by painful memories
By Karen Bond
Ryan Crotty will certainly never forget his first age grade final, the New Zealand centre leaving the field in agony with a broken ankle after only 10 minutes of the IRB Under 19 World Championship 2007 title decider against South Africa in Belfast.
His team-mates may have gone on to lift the title with an impressive 31-7 victory, but the painful memories are understandably proving a motivation for Crotty as New Zealand look to win the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship title in Wales this month.
Of course this time, he is determined to be there on the pitch to enjoy the celebrations!
“Touch wood that doesn’t happen again!” laughed Crotty, whose side are three wins away from getting their hands on the silverware, starting with Argentina at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday.
“I was there for the national anthem and the haka, which was all good. I felt the pre-match atmosphere, I think I got about 10 or 15 minutes, hopefully it doesn’t happen again. I have had a pretty good year of rehab and have probably been gunning for this Under 20 tournament ever since I did break my ankle.
“There is not that feeling of I suppose jubilation where you have put in 80 minutes of hard work and come away with the victory, so it is certainly extra motivation to be there hopefully when that final whistle goes in the final, to be there standing alongside Smithy [captain Chris Smith] raising the trophy. That is certainly extra motivation.”
Passion makes Argentina dangerous
However while Crotty would love to run out with his team-mates in the final at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium next Sunday, the 19-year-old is only too aware that there is still plenty of hard work to do if the favourites are to achieve that goal.
The first hurdle being the Pool A decider with Argentina on Saturday, a team that Crotty knows will not be any easy team to roll over in the Welsh capital to confirm their place in the semi-finals against either Wales or France – the Pool D winners.
“They [Argentina] are a side that plays with a lot of passion and they are a side with a game plan and that makes them dangerous,” admitted Crotty, who was “stoked” to captain his country for the first time in their 65-10 defeat of Ireland on Tuesday.
“The boys definitely aren’t going into this thinking it is going to be easy by any means. The guys are really geared up for a physical encounter, I think that shows in the personnel we have selected.
“We know they are going to be physical, we know they are going to play with a lot of passion, but I think if we out-passion them and can take them away from their strengths then we can make them vulnerable. We certainly know they are not going to take any backward steps so it will be a good encounter.
The best is yet to come
“We know they like to play it tight, we know they won’t particularly spread it away from their big guys too much. Without giving too much away, we are going to look to play our game and if we can play to our strengths then we will play really well and hopefully put them away.”
Crotty will have a new centre partner in Kade Poki, the Man of the Match against Ireland who switches in the from wing with Jackson Willison dropping to the bench, amongst a number of changes to the side to face Argentina which do nothing to weaken the side.
“It is awesome being in a squad with so much depth, you can take one player out and put another one in and there is no drop in our standards, that is good. I think we have picked a side that can counter the Argentina side.”
Worrying for Argentina and the other sides in contention to reach the semi-finals of the competition – Wales, France, Australia, England, South Africa and Samoa – Crotty is also adamant that New Zealand have not yet produced near to their best rugby.
“I don’t think we have, but give us another couple of weeks of hard training and games. We have got a pretty talented group of boys and we are strong on and off the pitch, so I think if we keep working hard and stay focused we can put some pretty some exciting stuff out there on the field.
“A lot of stuff we have been putting into training hasn’t quite been executed in games, so once we start really understanding the game we want to play, once we do put it out there it will be pretty exciting rugby to watch.”
The other Pool A match, which kicks off at 15:00, will see Ireland and Tonga both trying to record their first victory of the IRB Junior World Championship after losing to both New Zealand and Argentina.
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