Barbarians v New Zealand, Twickenham, December 5
Rokocoko not out to prove point
December 2, 2009
Joe Rokocoko will focus on catching to become a modern winger © Getty Images
Joe Rokocoko is hurting over his All Blacks omission but insists he will earn his spot back next year, not in this Saturday's match against his country with the Barbarians.
The winger has been meeting with team-mates in London ahead of the Twickenham clash, after watching their Tour exploits on television from his native Fiji.
But now isn't time for redemption, he insists. He's just excited about the chance to play like a "real winger" in the festival match, where he'll probably mark rising star Zac Guildford
"It's been a hard year, there's been a lot of things said about me. It's been awesome to come into this environment and kick back and enjoy your footy," he said.
Rokocoko said next season for the Blues in the Super 14 is his time to shine, when he'll try to show the All Blacks selectors he can adjust his game to the kicking and high ball skills they require. They've always maintained there's a way back for their former star winger, still just 26, with 45 test tries to his name.
"I'll badly want it next year. It's too late now with one game left so I'm not going to stress too much in this game and try to prove something."
If it doesn't happen, and Graham Henry doesn't call again, all kind of thoughts are running through Rokocoko's head. Even if some might be tongue in cheek.
"I might be playing for Fiji in the next World Cup, who knows? I might be moving into centre..."
The former may not be as strange as it sounds, although it depends on the International Rugby Board introducing the mooted rule where players from tier one countries and shift to tier two after a 12-month stand down.
It's been six weeks since Rokocoko played a serious match. He enjoyed the break and spent much of that time back home in Fiji where he played touch in his village and watched the All Blacks from afar, with difficulty.
"I've been sitting back with the kava bowl watching in Fiji. The cousins woke me up and even though you don't make it in, I've been part of it since 2003, and you still feel a part of it."
Rokocoko watched on in dismay as the All Blacks beat France 39-12 in just the kind of test he would thrive in - in stark contrast to the kick, chase and catch game that he has been deemed unsuitable for.
"You've got to choose three fullbacks now. It is frustrating when you have to change your whole game; kicking game and all sorts to be a fullback. A clear example was last week, they threw the ball around and it was awesome to watch. I saw the highlights and there's games like that I miss. Hopefully there's more of those games to come."
The Barbarians trained strongly under coach Nick Mallett at Richmond on Tuesday, and offered a hint of their star-studded starting lineup.
Rokocoko will play on the right wing and Springboks flyer Bryan Habana on the left, with Drew Mitchell at fullback, Springbok Jaque Fourie and Welshman Jamie Roberts in the midfield and Fourie du Preez and Matt Giteau forming a classy halves duo.
In the forwards, Wallabies George Smith and Rocky Elsom and Springbok Schalk Burger will form an imposing back row and Boks captain Victor Matfield will marshal the line-outs.
The All Blacks had today off and will train for the first time on Wednesday, before naming what is expected to be a second-string lineup.