New Zealand Rugby
Dumped All Blacks wingers vow to return
PA Sport
October 20, 2009
All Blacks wing Joe Rokocoko dives in to score his side's third try, New Zealand v Australia, Tri-Nations, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, September 19, 2009
Joe Rokocoko in his flying prime for the All Blacks © Getty Images

Discarded New Zealand wingers Joe Rokocoko and Hosea Gear have vowed to fight their way back into the black jersey after being dropped for the end-of-season tour to Japan and Europe.

The pair were overlooked for newcomers Zac Guildford and Ben Smith in the squad named on Sunday for Tests against Australia, Wales, Italy, England and France plus a match against the Barbarians.

Rokocoko, a 60-Test veteran, admitted he felt like he had been dodging bullets for most of the year after patchy form in his eight Tests. "But this bullet came straight on the head," he said after learning from coach Graham Henry that he had been omitted from the 33-man squad.

"I guess these days when you get a call from the coach it's not that you have made the team it's that you missed out. Going home and seeing I had a missed call from Ted (Henry), I knew what the outcome was."

Rokocoko has been axed once before in 2005 but said this time it hurt more. "You have that gut feeling when you aren't safe. I have experienced it before. I wasn't confident the whole time and it didn't surprise me when the phone call came," he said.

"It's pretty hard to take in. When you are involved with the team for seven years - the longer you have been in the team the more it hurts."

The 26-year-old said his immediate plans were to try to finish this season strongly with Auckland before freshening up for next year's Super 14 with the Blues.

"The black jersey is what's making me stay in New Zealand and I'm striving for it. I'm going to set new goals again and re-start really," he said. "The Super 14 is the foundation to set yourself for the year. I want to concentrate on having a good pre-season training, get myself excited again and everything else will snowball from that."

Gear, while disappointed to miss out, admitted his omission had not come as a shock. "I saw myself as not an automatic choice as some of the other guys did," he said. "I wasn't taking it for granted and wasn't expecting my name to be called out. All I could do was try and perform well."

The 25-year-old insisted despite the setback he remained committed to New Zealand rugby. "The World Cup is my goal," he said. "All going well that's my target at the moment. All I can do is play to my best every week, week in week out, and be really consistent."

Gear will now turn his attentions to trying to help Wellington to their fourth successive Air New Zealand Cup final.

"Having something to focus on straight away has probably helped me accept the fact I've not been selected," he admitted. "You've got to get over it one day. The more I think about it the more I get myself down and that's going to get in the way of my performance and what I want to achieve for the Lions."


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