Kurt Baker keen to chase Comm Games gold

GETTING BACK: Kurt Baker will finally get back on the field this weekend.
GETTING BACK: Kurt Baker will finally get back on the field this weekend.

New Zealand sevens player of the year Kurt Baker will not rule out another tilt at Commonwealth Games gold.

Baker, who also won the Sevens World Cup and the IRB series with New Zealand last year, comes off a suspension this weekend after he copped a six-week ban for a dangerous lifting tackle on Melbourne Rebels halfback Nic Stirzaker in early April.

"I can play club footy this weekend, which has given me a bit of light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "It's been a long time to be out of the game."

The Highlanders outside back has been left to the grind of almost daily training without the reward of playing, although he had plenty of company with the squad members who were not selected for his side's recent tour of South Africa.

Although he expressed an interest in trying to make the Commonwealth Games sevens squad earlier this year, Baker has not been in recent contact with New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens.

"I think he knows I'm always pretty interested, anyway. At the start of the season he had to put together a shortlist of potential guys he might have wanted and I was on that list.

"Whether I'm available more or less depends on whether the Highlanders are in the playoffs or not. Until we know what's happening there, it's not really worth chasing. I'd obviously love to go back to a Commonwealth Games but as I said, I haven't personally talked to him."

Baker had kept a close eye on New Zealand's recent IRB tournaments and enjoyed their success in Scotland and England.

"They're playing really well and I'd say those trying to get in [to the Commonwealth Games squad] are going to find it not very easy. I don't know what's on his [Tietjens] mind but I'd like to think he still believed I could do the job for him."

Tietjens, who returned to New Zealand this week with his 12th world championship, has scheduled a three-day training camp in Mt Maunganui next month before he finalised a 14-strong squad to chase a fifth successive gold medal.

That squad will be trimmed to 12 after a week at the team's training base in Amsterdam shortly before the Glasgow Games start.

Meanwhile, Baker was hopeful he could make more of a contribution to the Highlanders over the next few weeks.

"I've worked out that there is six games to go and hopefully I can get the chance to put my best foot forward and see what happens from there. I feel like I haven't proved much yet and that was the major reason I came back to Super Rugby."

Whatever happens, Baker will be back for Taranaki for this year's national provincial championship.

Taranaki Daily News