Lions tour: Midfield switch is no issue for All Blacks centre Ryan Crotty
Ryan Crotty, liberated from the more "confrontational" All Blacks No.12 jumper, will be on the hunt for a Sonny Bill Williams offload in Saturday's first British and Irish Lions Test.
The 28-year-old Crotty has recovered from a rib cartilage injury to line up at centre against the Lions, with Williams named inside him at second-five.
The duo have played together in the midfield just twice before - a thumping win over the United States in 2014, and a year later against Samoa.
Otherwise, the 26-cap Crusader has mostly found himself at second-five for both club and country, with the likes of Anton Lienert-Brown, Malakai Fekitoa and George Moala spending time in the No.13 shirt.
He didn't anticipate too many teething issues in the role.
"At second-five, in the way we defend, you play a little more confrontational than No.13 - there you have to defend a lot more space," Crotty said.
"I see (Williams) a lot like Anton in the way they both play, and I've played a lot of rugby with Anton - they're both big strong ball-carrying midfielders, probably two of the best offloaders in the game.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say I'd be looking for an offload every now and then, but it's just about nailing my role and trusting that."
Plenty of Kiwi hearts leapt into mouths in early June when Crusaders boss Scott Robertson, following his side's win over the Highlanders, intimated an injured Crotty would miss out on the Lions series.
Yet Crotty has healed faster than expected from his rib issue, and says he's good to go on Saturday - but without any warm-up matches under his belt.
He also missed the Crusaders' 12-3 loss to the Lions last fortnight, where he would've had the chance to test himself against Saturday's midfield opponents Jonathan Davies and the Kiwi-born Ben Te'o.
"It's not easy, but you've got to trust your process," Crotty said.
"I think it's backing the mental side of your game, trusting you're there, and the body will go where the mind takes it.
"I just need to focus on my strengths and what I bring to the team, and bringing that kind of cool, calm voice, that steadying influence."
Newshub / NZN