New Zealand Rugby
Rokocoko praised for battling back
May 30, 2010
The Blues' Joe Rokocoko has been praised for battling back into the All Blacks picture © Getty Images
Winger Joe Rokocoko has been lauded for his "huge character" after fighting his way back into the All Blacks squad.
Rokocoko, 26, has been included in a 26-man squad to prepare for matches against Ireland and Wales next month, after being dropped for last year's end-of-season tour. The scorer of 45 tries in 60 tests, he gets a recall after some strong performances for the Blues in the Super 14.
Coach Graham Henry said he was delighted at Rokocoko's return to form after getting into "a bit of a hole" last year. "He had been a superstar for a long time," he said. "I think, at some stage in a player like that's career, they have a bit of a dip. The rules changed that put extra pressure on him."
Henry praised Rokocoko, who became a father last year, for the way he worked to win his spot back. "He went and said, `Either I put out the white flag and go overseas, or I turn the corner and put my mind to it'. I think he's playing for his family. I think he's playing for his son. I know that's motivation for him, and he's been impressive."
Assistant coach Wayne Smith said being dropped could not have been easy for someone like Rokocoko, given what he had done in the game. "He's shown huge character to go back and find what's inside him and to be really inspired to play as he's done," he said
"I think he was in the pit a wee bit last year. Part of that was that he spent a lot of time in training trying to master the high ball skills which were a big part of the game last year and I don't think that helped his running game."
Smith believed Rokocoko had rediscovered his running game while his security under the high ball had improved. "He's shown an ability to take the high ball, to field kicks a lot better," he said. "But his running game has come back into mode and it's given real strength to do what he's done."
All Blacks squad for Tests against Ireland at New Plymouth on June 12 and Wales at Dunedin and Hamilton on June 19 and 26:-
Anthony Boric (North Harbour), Dan Carter (Canterbury), Jimmy Cowan (Southland), Aaron Cruden (Manawatu), Israel Dagg (Hawke's Bay), Aled de Malmanche (Waikato), Tom Donnelly (Otago), Ben Franks (Tasman), Owen Franks (Canterbury), Zac Guildford (Hawke's Bay), Cory Jane (Wellington), Richard Kahui (Waikato), Jerome Kaino (Auckland), Richie McCaw (Canterbury, captain), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Mils Muliaina (Waikato), Joe Rokocoko (Auckland), Kieran Read (Canterbury), Conrad Smith (Wellington), Benson Stanley (Auckland), Adam Thomson (Otago), Brad Thorn (Canterbury), Neemia Tialata (Wellington), Victor Vito (Wellington), Piri Weepu (Wellington), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour).