Focused Zac Guildford eyes All Blacks return
As he slaps down the accelerator on the field Zac Guildford hopes the memories of his post-World Cup meltdown continue to recede into the distance.
After November's episode in Rarotonga the All Black wing's chances of playing on the international scene again appeared remote.
Final warnings were issued by the NZRU, Guildford pledged to steer clear of the booze for a year and now he hopes new All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will consider him for the three-test series against Ireland in June.
A scheduled meeting with Hansen in Christchurch this week suggests the 23-year-old still has a shot of adding to his eight test caps – the All Blacks boss doesn't grant an audience to everyone – and his recent form has thrust Guildford among the country's form flyers.
Having served a four-match suspension, which included three pre-season games, Guildford had to sit out only the Crusaders opening round game against the Blues before being named on the bench for the second-round fixture against the Highlanders.
A nervous performance against the Chiefs in Napier in the third-round match on March 9 has since been replaced by the return of his routine of lurking around the backline, being prepared to stay in the game by crossing to the opposite wing and defending strongly.
Gaining confidence on the field, he says, has assisted in forgetting the off-field dramas.
"I think it does," he said.
"I guess at the time it was sometimes pretty tough but ... now I have got just one focus. That is playing well and giving back to the team. If you can get a few more wins it just makes life that much easier."
Guildford made just one appearance at the World Cup, scoring four tries in the pool match against Canada, with Cory Jane, Richard Kahui and Sonny Bill Williams also contesting the wing berths.
Guildford's lack of versatility didn't promote his chances under Graham Henry and he must now rely on his form to promote his cause with Hansen who is likely to retain the principle of rewarding versatility.
Guildford scored a couple of tries on the recent trip to South Africa, and he will be crossing his digits that Hansen took some notice of his work rate.
"The first couple of games were a bit quiet," he said.
"But when I got over to Africa and was able to play a bit of running rugby and the ball got in my hands a few times and I was able to sneak around DC [Dan Carter] for a few tries and he probably makes me look good."