Hosea Gear feels like a rookie again after one of the more satisfying test recalls in recent memory.
A few short weeks after rolling the dice and shunning a lucrative offer to play rugby in Japan, Gear has reclaimed the All Blacks No 11 jersey. And he said yesterday his ninth test cap would be the sweetest of all.
"That's the risk I had to take, but for me it was about making the right decision. I knew it wasn't going to be set in concrete that I'd get back in, so to be selected here is almost like starting all over again," he said.
"Having made the decision I was going to leave, and then coming back, I'm probably more excited now than I have been before playing any other game."
Gear and Highlanders team-mate Ben Smith have come into the test side at the expense of Julian Savea and Zac Guildford.
The latter pair were quiet in Christchurch, but coach Steve Hansen said he had always planned to give Gear and Smith game time.
Many feel Gear has been hard done by when it comes to the national side and he was a surprise omission from last year's World Cup squad before being called in late in the tournament.
But the 28-year-old said all that mattered to him was pulling on the All Blacks jersey again.
"There is always going to be anger and disappointment in your career, but it's about how you bounce back from that. I had to look at myself and say: 'Am I happy with what I've done in the jersey? Have I fulfilled my ability? Or can I grow those skills even more, that's still the motivating factor'," he said.
Gear has scored five tries in eight tests, but has often been criticised for his lack of workrate.
Notably, he struggled to get into the game during his last test, an 18-5 loss to South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
This time around he says he's better equipped for matches that do not tend to flow toward the outside backs and had taken a rugby league style approach to carrying the ball in close during the Highlanders campaign.
"They wanted me to have something to go to if I hadn't been in the game. It's a way of getting back in the game if you find you just aren't getting the ball."
- © Fairfax NZ News
How do you feel about the AIG logo on the All Blacks jersey?