By WYNNE GRAY in Sydney
A "re-energised" Mark Hammett says he may reconsider his retirement plans after his call-up to the Tri-Nations squad.
The 31-year-old was planning to resume work outside rugby next year (he is in a sheetmetal engineering business with his brother), but indicated yesterday that idea may have to wait a little longer.
"I mean you are a long time retired, aren't you?" he said.
He would see what happened if he was included in the World Cup squad or was consigned to the NPC championship with Canterbury.
But Hammett's reintroduction to the All Blacks at the expense of Anton Oliver and following injuries to other challengers such as Andrew Hore, Tom Willis and Corey Flynn, have naturally given him a new burst of enthusiasm.
He has also been consumed by the energy and vitality in the All Blacks this season after missing the tour to Europe last year and the June internationals.
The hooker with 22 test appearances was in breezy form yesterday in Sydney as he discussed his return, the All Black prospects against the Wallabies and the state of rugby in New Zealand.
He had, he said, envisaged six months ago he would be in the All Blacks this year, though he had revised that assessment after the initial squad was picked in May.
Back in black last week against the Springboks at Pretoria, Hammett had been most impressed with the mood of the team. They knew what they had to achieve to make this year a success. They were very positive.
"This team is very focused on personal performances so the team performs," he said.
"To me it seems the All Blacks are a bit fresher this year. It could be the skill and excitement of the youngsters in there, they are bloody excited."
Preparation for the test against the Springboks and the resulting outcome was not in response to criticism of the All Blacks. That censure was outside their control and Hammett said the All Blacks could not allow themselves to be distracted by adverse comments.
The forwards had simply concentrated on creating a platform for the firepower in the backline.
It might be easy to revel in the final scrum when the All Blacks demolished the Springboks. They were probably dejected after shipping 50 points on their home ground, but Hammett felt the more pleasing analysis showed the All Black scrum had been strong throughout the match.
The side were resolute about offering a repeat against the Wallabies on Saturday as they sought to clear the first hurdle in regaining the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in five years.
"We are very determined, but we haven't actually talked about the trophy. I don't like to harp on, but we have talked about performance and trying to keep our standards at the right level.
"Basically, we know that if our standards are high then we can beat anyone, so that's what we are concentrating on.
"It's the things which aren't seen that are the things which will make this team a very good side."
Hammett used the case of All Black captain Reuben Thorne, whose tireless work, organisation and composure was a vital cog in the team's performance.
If he did not complete much of the grunt work then others in the tight such as Keven Mealamu could not be freed to use their ball-running skills.
"The perfect example is Reuben Thorne and how good he is at doing all that kind of work, the stuff which is not seen, and it leads to the likes of others such as Jerry Collins, McCaw, Mealamu and those boys who can do the flashy stuff," he said.
He believed the public and media were slowly starting to understand the changing nature of the game.
Hammett felt many past All Blacks did not comprehend how much the game had been transformed. In his case, he knew he had learned an enormous amount in the past few seasons.
A danger for the game, at club level, was the lack of coaches with sufficient expertise.
It was important for New Zealand to build its coaching reserves, he said, rather than letting them head overseas.