Opinion: Ryan Crotty back where he belongs - in the number 12 jersey

OPINION: It's taken an injury to Sonny Bill Williams, but Ryan Crotty will finally start a test match for the All Blacks in his best position.

The 35-test second-five had plugged away for years, waiting for Ma'a Nonu to vacate the number 12 jersey.

It all came to fruition in 2016, when Crotty started 11 tests in his preferred spot, as Williams pursued his Olympics dream with the sevens team.

But with SBW's return in 2017, Crotty was shunted out to centre.

Opinion: Ryan Crotty back where he belongs - in the number 12 jersey

The 29 year-old talisman outwardly didn't seem to mind, using the old cliche: "I'll be happy to play anywhere, as long as I'm in the team."

Truth is though, Crotty is the best number 12 in the country and has proved it at Super Rugby level for a long time.

He's the glue that's kept the Crusaders backline together in the absence of other notable star players, and has brought the likes of Richie Mo'unga, Jack Goodhue and David Havili up to his standard.

Crotty's only committed to New Zealand Rugby until after next year's World Cup, and if he doesn't get the respect he deserves to start regularly at second-five, 2019 could be his last year in black before heading overseas.

John Day is a rugby reporter for RadioLIVE.