John Day: Departing Ryan Crotty may miss yet another World Cup

It seems incredible to think a player of Ryan Crotty's quality might end up leaving New Zealand without featuring in a Rugby World Cup.

But that could be the reality for the 30-year-old midfielder, who's been a Crusaders stalwart for a decade, earning 44 tests for the All Blacks along the way.

Crotty's a player that never lets anyone down, he's a leader on the field and is always in the right place at the right time, most famously with his match-clinching try against Ireland in 2013.

His combination with Jack Goodhue has led the Crusaders to back-to-back Super Rugby titles and he's started 28 of his 29 tests since the last World Cup.

So surely Crotty has to be in the squad for the 2019 World Cup, right?

Maybe not.

The reason why Crotty isn't already a two-time World Cup winner is because New Zealand's been extremely well off when it comes to midfielders.

Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Sonny Bill Williams have been to - and succeeded - at the last two tournaments in New Zealand and in the UK .

At the 2015 World Cup, coach Steve Hansen preferred Malakai Fekitoa ahead of Crotty who - rightly or wrongly - is seen as a solid, rather than spectacular player.

That perception could be his undoing this time as well, with four other serious contenders in the mix for the hotly contested midfield positions.

Goodhue is the first name on the sheet.

The 23-year-old has emerged as the premier centre in the country and seems certain to play 100 tests for the All Blacks.

The second name the selectors will jot down is Williams.

The Blues second-five can do things no-one else in the world can do with the ball in hand and is a rock-solid defender.

That leaves Crotty battling with Anton Lienert-Brown and Ngani Laumape for the final two spots.

Lienert-Brown has shown his value off the bench for the All Blacks time and time again, and can cover both midfield positions, as well as the wing at a pinch.

Laumape's having another cracker Super Rugby season for the Hurricanes and offers a point of difference from the other midfielders, with his ability to bash over the advantage line.

Crotty's also had his share of injury and concussion problems, but missing out on the World Cup squad again would be the harshest blow of all for one of New Zealand rugby's great servants.

John Day is a Newshub sports reporter.