Gregor Paul 's Opinion

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Right time for Gear to move on

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Hosea Gear had all the chances he's going to get to establish himself in the All Blacks. Photo / Richard Robinson
Hosea Gear had all the chances he's going to get to establish himself in the All Blacks. Photo / Richard Robinson

Hosea Gear's departure to Toulouse provides a strong hint as to where the selection axe will fall on Sunday when the All Blacks cut their wider training squad to 31 players.

The midfield-outside back mix was the hardest part to decipher - there being an over supply of versatile men whose talents can be utilised just about anywhere.

Gear appeared to be in a straight battle with Frank Halai and Charles Piutau. It's likely that the latter is the man who will be named - and that was probably going to be the case before Gear signed with Toulouse. The big Highlanders wing has never quite delivered the way everyone hoped.

There have been sporadic episodes of brilliance - his try against Ireland in Hamilton last year was one: he hit fifth gear and left a trail of green-clad road kill on his way to a superb solo try. His most consistent form came in November 2010 when he rampaged through the Grand Slam tour.

But Gear's career has been largely defined by a sense of frustration that the ratio of excellence to mediocrity was skewed heavily towards the latter.

All Black coach Steve Hansen has never been convinced. Gear wasn't in his initial squad last year. He was called up after injury struck others and given a chance in Hamilton, he took it. But he never really pushed on. That was his time to come of age - and it didn't happen. By the end of the year Julian Savea had established himself on the left wing - more than that, he'd established he was on his way to international stardom. With Cory Jane so assured and compelling on the other wing - such a fantastic operator under the high ball and a genius in the business of counter attack, Gear could once again sense he was slipping down the pecking order.

Piatau is a sensationally gifted young man on the rise who has made an irresistible case for inclusion. It is surely only a matter of time before Halai wins his call-up - the Blues wing is in that same destructive mould as Gear, except he's that little bit bigger, younger and at this stage, more promising.

It's the last point that would have hammered home to Gear that the time is right to move on. At 29, he's had all the chances he's going to get to establish himself in the All Blacks.

It's time now for the next generation to be given their opportunity - a point that should be confirmed on Sunday afternoon when the squad is announced.

Likely All Black Squad
Wyatt Crockett, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks, Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Ben Afeaki, Luke Romano, Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Jeremy Thrush, Victor Vito, Liam Messam, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (captain), Piri Weepu, Aaron Smith, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Daniel Carter, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Ma'a Nonu, Francis Saili, Conrad Smith, Rene Ranger, Ben Smith, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Israel Dagg.

- Herald on Sunday

Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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