Crotty back to the scene where he broke Irish hearts

Crotty back to the scene where he broke Irish hearts

Ryan Crotty knows what his name means to folks in these parts.

It was, as everyone must know, the Crusaders midfielder who broke Irish hearts at the Aviva Stadium five years ago with a last-gasp try that denied the home side a first ever senior men's test victory against the famed All Blacks.

It was his first five-pointer for his country, one that spanned five feverish minutes and 41 phases, the 40th being a pass from Dane Coles that sent the then 25-year over in the corner for a score duly converted to give New Zealand a 24-22 win.

Ireland would eventually claim that breakthrough victory against the Kiwis in Chicago three years later but Crotty, back in Dublin with the All Blacks for Saturday's latest game against Ireland, understands that the ghosts of 2013 still haunt his current hosts.

“I remember Dane did all the work and I didn't have to do anything and since then I've had to apologise to every Irishman I've met since,” he joked at the team's hotel in in the Dublin suburb of Blachardstown on Monday afternoon.

That win secured an undefeated calendar year for New Zealand at the time.

It also marked their cards with regards to Joe Schmidt's Ireland team and one which gave them plenty more to think about back in 2016 over the course of two meetings.

Ireland's 40-29 win in the Windy City needs no regurgitating here while the 21-9 win for the All Blacks in Dublin two weeks later – the last meeting of these two sides – showed just how much the current Six Nations champions had gotten under their skin.

New Zealand played with a cold fury that day. Tackles from Sam Cane and Malakai Fekitoa on Robbie Henshaw and Simon Zebo should have been punished with red cards but weren't.

Crotty back to the scene where he broke Irish hearts

Crotty didn't feature in that one but he felt the intensity as much as the next man.

“I remember the boys made two hundred and something tackles that game. We were content to give them ball and trust our defence to hold them out.

“It was a really tough test match and a lot of the guys were really sore after that one. Any test against the Irish is going to be plenty tough and I'm sure this one will be no different.”

With Robbie Henshaw ruled out of this one with injury, the odds are that New Zealand – including Crotty, if picked – will be facing an Irish midfield containing Garry Ringrose and their fellow Kiwi Bundee Aki.

Aki left New Zealand for Connacht in 2014 and he has enjoyed huge success with the province and, since becoming eligible for his adopted country last year, Ireland.

Crotty remembers him well from Aki's days in Super Rugby.

Yeah, they've got class players throughout their backline. They're playing some great stuff at the moment and whoever pulls on the 12 and 13 for our team and goes up against them will have to prepare pretty diligently. It's awesome to see Bundee doing so well over here.

“I remember playing against him with the Crusaders against the Chiefs and he was a great player back then and he has come on leaps and bounds since he has come over here. It's great to see him get his opportunity.”

There have been thinly-veiled grumbles from the All Blacks' travelling party in the last week about the quantity of Kiwi players facing them in the colours of other nations. Brad Shields, in particular, came in for some sniping prior to last weekend's England game.

Shields earned his third cap for England against his native New Zealand last week, just a handful of months after making the move from the Hurricanes. If that rankles some then Coles, his old clubmate, had nothing but positive words for his old pal's career path.

“Oh mate, it was pretty weird last week playing against Shieldsy. I ran out to check the ground before kick-off and I was pretty relaxed and he had the headphones on.

"You have a joke but it's weird, especially when you are so close and I have played so much rugby with Shieldsy.

“I have a personal relationship and that makes it quite difficult but once you're on the field ... I tried to counter a ruck and he was like, 'come on then'. When you're out there you need to do a job and you put those relationships side.

“We were happy to catch up after the game, which was awesome. It makes the journey that bit more special, that you get to play your mates that you grew up with and are with different countries but that's the nature of what's happening now.

“Guys are finding other opportunities to play international footy and that's all good.”

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