Wynne Gray on sport

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it

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Nine All Blacks have finished their footy for the year although their tour of duty is not over.

Four - Hosea Gear, Tamati Ellison, Adam Thomson and Sam Cane - played in one test each, while replacements Tom Taylor and Hika Elliot will not see any game time, unless something dramatic happens.

It is possible. There was the food poisoning which nobbled the All Blacks at the 1995 World Cup and a bug has collared a few in their hotel this week.

But the "dirty dirties", as the non-players are known, have a great deal of work left to help get those who are playing England as ready as possible for that combat.

This week, the omitted group is Gear, Ellison, Beauden Barrett, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Cane, Thomson, Ali Williams, Ben Franks, the suspended Andrew Hore and Taylor and Elliot.

There were strong reasons for all the single-game men - with the possible exception of Gear - being that way.

Ellison damaged his foot in his start against Scotland and did not fully recover until this week which put him out of the frame as a backup while Thomson's suspension kerfuffle effectively eliminated him as well.

Cane is behind the skipper and despite a strong run against Italy, he was always going to miss out to a fit Richie McCaw.

The way they configure the extended forwards bench with two props, a hooker, a lock and a versatile loosie left no room for the young flanker.

Then there was Gear, who was encouraged to stay in New Zealand this season rather than go overseas.

The 28-year-old has accrued 14 caps since his 2008 debut, which is not a spectacular rate of progress.

Gear admits that at times he suffers from a lack of confidence and does not quite back his power and speed to damage defences.

He can also battle to get into games the way that someone like Cory Jane does.

If his confidence is up, Gear can be a lethal package. He changed from his usual left wing to the right for the test with Italy because the selectors believed his sidestep looked more suited to that flank.

It may be but he got precious little chance in that test to push his case for some involvement against Wales and England.

When the selectors pick their bench, they are looking for versatile men such as Ben Smith, Ellison, Barrett or Taylor who can cover several positions.

Gear plays only wing so that diminishes his reserve chances.

There are men at home, such as the injured Richard Kahui and Zac Guildford, who have also played for the All Blacks on the wing while others will come into focus again in Super rugby.

- NZ Herald

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