Hawke's Bay Magpie Zac Guildford says the controversy around his selection over Hosea Gear in the All Blacks World Cup squad contributed to his poor performance in the recent Tri-Nations Cup defeat to Australia last Saturday.
The 22-year-old's selection for one of the wing positions was one of the most contentious and although he wasn't using it as an excuse, Guildford said it did play on his mind in the days leading up the match in Brisbane.
"It added a bit of pressure during the week," Guildford said.
"I found myself thinking about it a couple of times but I guess I play my best rugby when I'm having fun and on Saturday I let the pressure get the better of me."
The Napier Technical Old Boys and Crusaders Super Rugby franchise player was replaced midway through the second-half after several glaring mistakes including at least three knock-ons from high kicks.
"The Wallabies have got a good kicking game with Will Genia and Quade Cooper but I catch high balls all day at training.
"They are just the basic skills of a winger and when it came to the game I dropped them," he said. "It was a little bit frustrating but I'll learn from the experience.
"I'm already looking forward to the next opportunity if I get one and I'm sure I will at some stage during the World Cup.
"When I get out there I just need to put right the things that went wrong," Guildford said.
"It was tough, I made a few mistakes early on and never recovered from them so there are plenty of lessons learned."
While Guildford is an excellent finisher whose main strength is his work rate, he failed to make any impact on the test.
Wellington Lions player Gear is more of a power player, the argument of his supporters being that he could be more of an asset in the pressure of a sudden-death World Cup match.
The support for Gear grew louder after the test at Suncorp Stadium but the way both reacted to their recent setbacks was a credit to them.
When asked if the familiar grounds and home crowds of a World Cup in New Zealand would help rebuild his confidence, Guildford said: "That will help, but in saying that you should be able to perform on any stage, it shouldn't matter if you're in New Zealand or Australia or anywhere in the world.
"I just need to harden up mentally and move on."
Guildford is in Hawke's Bay today visiting Waipukurau to promote the World Cup campaign with his fellow international representatives, prop John Afoa and hooker Keven Mealamu. APNZ