Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Midfield minefield means Crotty, Fekitoa left in limbo over futures

Malakai Fekitoa (left) celebrates with Ryan Crotty of the All Blacks after winning The Rugby Championship match. Photo / Getty Images
Malakai Fekitoa (left) celebrates with Ryan Crotty of the All Blacks after winning The Rugby Championship match. Photo / Getty Images

Although there remains no clear sense of a pecking order among the All Blacks' midfield resources, it's unlikely either Ryan Crotty or Malakai Fekitoa are going to make longer term career commitments.

They are off contract this year but appear to be holding off decisions about whether they will stay in New Zealand until they have a better feel for the All Blacks' coaches thinking.

The New Zealand Rugby Union will make both men good offers to stay. They are valued and respected and wanted here and offshore.

Crotty has been linked with Bristol and Fekitoa has confirmed there are offshore suitors chasing his signature but neither has given any clear sense of what their next move might be.

All that is expected to sort itself out in the next few months when the All Blacks get into their work and make decisions about who they are going to use in their midfield against the Lions and the Rugby Championship.

It is an area where the All Blacks have ample choice. They have a host of good individual players but not, necessarily, an established combination sitting among them.

And because they have so much choice and a few of the players in the mix are equally comfortable at second-five or centre, it's not easy to predict who will be lining up for the All Blacks in any given test.

Crotty should have some confidence that he will be heavily involved. He is held in high respect and the All Blacks know his low error rugby is a big attraction. The issue for Crotty is how much does he have to be involved to feel that it's worth while him staying in New Zealand?

Before last year he couldn't quite hold his place in the squad. He was in and out depending on injuries and while he played well whenever he was given a chance, he wasn't deemed to be on the same level as Sonny Bill Williams, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Fekitoa.

That changed last year with Nonu and Smith not around and Williams injured. Crotty became the first choice No12 and advanced his reputation and value as a high quality footballer who makes few mistakes. With Williams back to full fitness, however, Crotty may again revert to being more of a peripheral player this year. Having been in and out of the squad in the past, he might need to feel that is not going to be his likely fate again before he signs on for more with New Zealand.

Fekitoa's situation is much the same. Having made his test debut in 2014, he established himself as one of the most exciting emerging midfielders in the country.

He looked like he was the heir apparent to Smith at centre, but last year he lost some of his form and confidence and saw the likes of George Moala and Anton Lienert-Brown storm into contention.

The return to health of the supremely talented Charlie Ngatai has only added to the congestion and it's difficult to know how Fekitoa fits into the All Blacks' short or longer term planning.

He probably feels much the same - that he can't be sure where he sits and will wait to see how the next couple of months pan out before he unveils what he will be doing in 2018.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 25 May 2017 14:50:00 Processing Time: 24ms