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Ireland's 2013 tormentor Crotty looking forward to clash with old pal Jared Payne

The All Black centre says he’s been apologising to Irish supporters everywhere since denying Joe Schmidt’s men victory in Dublin.

Crotty prepares for work in New Zealand's downtown gym.
Crotty prepares for work in New Zealand's downtown gym.
Image: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Sean Farrell reports from Chicago

“HE WAS A REAL smartass back in the day,” says Ryan Crotty about his one-time Crusaders team-mate Jared Payne.

Ireland international Payne played alongside the All Black with the Christchurch outfit in 2009-10. A lot of time has passed since their days in the same back-line.

Payne moved on to the Blues and then Ulster and, this Saturday, the two Kiwis could find themselves facing off in midfield when Ireland open their international season against New Zealand in Chicago – unless the Ulster man is deployed at fullback.

Jared Payne, Devin Toner and Simon Zebo Jared Payne gets his New Zealand passport ready for inspection on the way to Chicago. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’d be cool to catch up with him. He’s been in contact, so might get a chance to meet up before the weekend. It’d be awesome to lock horns. It’s always a good battle going up against your opposite, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to play against him.”

Given that New Zealand’s hotel is just a short skip across the river from Ireland’s Trump Tower base,  finding time to meet up this week might even be easier done than if the squads were in Dublin. Then the slagging can recommence:

“He was a real smartass back in the day. He played fullback, so he was always chippin’ at the midfielders telling us to pass it.”

Crotty, in case anyone needed reminding, is the man responsible for the heartbreaking last-gasp try that denied Ireland victory when the sides last met in 2013. A lot of time has passed and water gone under the bridge, but the score remains an important moment for the 28-year-old.

“I was hoping you’d ask about that,” Crotty joked when The42 poses the mandatory question.

Ryan Crotty crosses the line to score the last try of the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I’ve pretty much had to apologise to every Irishman I’ve met since that day. It was a special moment for me and our team. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to score another try on Saturday. For me it was a very special moment. I was just happy to let the All Blacks be successful.”

Having been a utility used all across the back-line for most of his international career, Crotty’s importance in the World Champions’ squad has increased massively this season.

Even a great team would expect a struggle to fill the void left by greats like Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, but Crotty has made himself at home in the number 12 jersey. That combined with the form of Anton Lienert-Brown (who has been nominated for the World Rugby breakthrough star of the year) has made the transition to the next generation look almost seamless.

“He’s played some outstanding footy since being given the opportunity at 13,” says Crotty before easily lapsing back into a relaxed and not-altogether-serious tone.

It’s awesome and the guys around him can take pride in that. We work really hard together, especially the midfielders. It’s cool to see one of us getting the credit he deserves.”

“I’m loving (the prolonged stint at 12), very blessed to get the opportunity to get my chance in the midfield.

“I’m happy I’ve been able to make the most of it. There’s four more big games this year. If I can play well in those four games I’ll be pretty proud of the effort I put into the black jersey this year.”

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Sean Farrell

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