Injured All Blacks midfielder Ryan Crotty is set to make his long awaited return to rugby this weekend after two months out of action with a hand injury.

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The 30-year-old fractured his thumb during the Crusaders’ 30-26 Super Rugby semi-final victory over the Hurricanes in June, and was given a recovery timeframe of eight weeks.

Subsequently, he has missed all of the All Blacks tests to date this year and didn’t play in the Super Rugby final, where the Crusaders notched their third consecutive title with a 19-3 win over the Jaguares in Christchurch.

Crotty will return to action this weekend, though, after being made available to play for Canterbury in their Mitre 10 Cup clash against Southland at Orangetheory Stadium on Saturday.

Canterbury – and Southland – are yet to taste victory this season, so the presence of Crotty, who is one of five midfielders vying for four spots in the All Blacks’ World Cup squad, in their backline will be of immense value for the hosts.

The 44-test veteran is believed to be a frontrunner to make Steve Hansen’s final 31-man cut to travel to Japan for next month’s tournament alongside fellow midfielders Sonny Bill Williams, Jack Goodhue and Anton Lienert-Brown.

However, the consistent form of blockbusting second-five-eighth Ngani Laumape, who has impressed for both the Hurricanes and All Blacks this year, may be enough to push Crotty out of contention.

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Crotty, who will depart New Zealand to join Japanese Top League club Kubota Spears following the World Cup, was involved with the All Blacks during their successful Bledisloe Cup series earlier this month, but wasn’t available for selection.

The All Blacks’ World Cup squad will be announced at midday on Wednesday at Eden Park.

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