Rugby Championship News

Gear ready for last chance saloon





Test match rugby comes with enough pressure as it is, but knowing you could only have one game to stake a claim to a place in the All Blacks World Cup squad cranks up the pressure a few notches.

That is the situation facing All Black wing Rico Gear on Saturday when he will win his nineteenth cap in the Bledisloe Cup encounter against Australia in Melbourne.

“It’s the most important really with Dougie (Howlett) and the other guys coming back for the next two Tri-Nations games. They pick the World Cup squad after that. This is probably one of my only chances really,” Gear told the NZPA.

As much as he may like to dream off a place at the World Cup later this year Gear is being realistic and knows that if he doesn’t bring his best game to the table on Saturday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground it could be his last in the coveted All Black shirt.

In fact Gear had effectively resigned himself to the fact he may not even win a nineteenth cap for the All Blacks when he penned a three-year deal with Gunniess Premiership outfit Worcester Warriors earlier this month.

Yet he know finds himself back in black, albeit due to an injury to Sitiveni Sivivatu and Doug Howlett being away on paternity leave for the birth of his first child. It was Howlett’s absence from the squad that paved the way for Gear to return.

With Sitiveni Sivivatu sustaining a broken nose in the 26-21 victory over South Africa in Durban last week Joe Rokocoko switches to the left wing and Gear occupies the right wing berth.

As far as Gear is concerned there is one wing spot available in Graham Henry’s World Cup squad and he sees it as a straight race between himself and Howlett to board the plane for France. So really Saturday’s Test could well make or break his season and ultimately All Black career.

“I was very surprised to be playing. I wasn’t really listening when they were naming the team and I got a bit of a shock … when we get our opportunities we’ve just got to take them,” he said.

Having made his New Zealand debut in 2004 against the Pacific Islanders Gear found himself out of favour at the beginning of the season and took his omission from the squad pretty hard.

However he has taken on board Wayne Smith’s (backs coach) requests that he increase his on-field work rate.

Gear has had other matters on his mind, with his first child, Whaimauri Hosea, being born in early May although due to touring with the Junior All Blacks he has had little time to spend with his wife, Taina, and Whaimauri Hosea.

“I’m on the phone a lot and pretty close to the e-mail and photos. It’s been pretty tough but it’s an important year for rugby too. I’ve got to give that a crack as well,” Gear admitted.

Gear is not alone in the lonely dads club, with Chris Jack also having just returned from the birth if his first child when his wife Kym gave birth to their daughter Sophia.

“It’s a bit of an eye opener really. It’s amazing to see what women put themselves through but it was pretty cool, a special time in my life,” Jack said.

“I’m feeling pretty good actually. It’s always good to come back without being battered, especially after the flight the boys have been on.”

Jack returns to lock the All Blacks scrum with Troy Flavell on Saturday.
365 Digital

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