Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Gear's switch needs to feel right

Winger's change from the left doesn't exclude him from further selection on Europe tour, says coach Hansen.

Hosea Gear was given the choice of playing on the right flank or sticking to the left in the test against Italy this Sunday in Rome. Photo / Getty Images
Hosea Gear was given the choice of playing on the right flank or sticking to the left in the test against Italy this Sunday in Rome. Photo / Getty Images

Switching Hosea Gear to the right wing against Italy does not indicate he is out of the frame for the final two tour tests.

Cory Jane is a certainty for that position after he underlined his complete skill range once more in the opening international with Scotland.

But coach Steve Hansen said Gear's change from his usual left flank duties was an idea picked up by the staff and offered for the wing's approval. There was no pressure - if he felt more comfortable on the left wing where there is a vacancy it was his choice.

"We just think the right side might suit H [Hosea] better than the left side," Hansen explained.

"Just with some of the stuff we have been seeing when he has been doing his drills and beating people, he seems naturally able to beat people on that right-hand side.

"It is just a gut feeling and we will see how it goes."

The All Black selectors were happy for their wings to play on either flank as long as they were comfortable. Gear's selection on the right wing did not exclude him from further tour selection, Hansen said.

There were a number of positions which could be decided by performances against Italy, who were rated the best set-piece side in Europe.

Some players had been in top touch against Scotland and in nailing their work had asked questions of their fellow tourists and the selection panel. "I thought Wyatt Crockett was outstanding among others, Richie McCaw wasn't bad, Dan Carter was pretty good.

"Most of us could pick the team that is going to play against Wales," Hansen said, getting back into serious comment mode.

"There has been a hard core of people who have played most of the tests this season and I can't see that changing. There is no reason for that change because people are playing well," he said.

"If this group come out and perform [against Italy] I wouldn't expect too many changes. Everyone has been given the opportunity, though, and question marks have been put over the whole team re selection for Wales on form."

Kieran Read had completed a great deal of captaincy for the Crusaders and his elevation to that leadership role in the All Blacks was a natural step without McCaw or Carter starting this test.

Injuries to Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith had not changed the wing selection ideas but it did mean that Beauden Barrett got another run at fullback.

This test was also a chance to rest McCaw completely and give Sam Cane another start and another taste of the rigours of test rugby.

So far he'd had a smooth ride but he needed a few tough assignments.

Halfback Smith had suffered one of those roadbump matches against the Wallabies in Brisbane. That happened to all players, Hansen said, and it gave them an extra lesson about the difficulties of test rugby.

"We have seen a lot of Aaron and we've seen a pretty amazing rugby player in his first year," Hansen said.

"He has done some amazing things and to come in and command and be the voice does not come naturally to rookie players. This week, though, he has learned he needs to be the boss and he has stepped up well."

- NZ Herald

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