Guildford aiming for All Blacks after about turn

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:01 24/05/2013
Zac Guildford
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STAYING PUT: Little interest from oversees has sparked a change in focus for Zac Guildford.

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Zac Guildford wants to stay in New Zealand.

A month ago the Crusaders wing was considering a move offshore but has since confirmed to The Press his immediate future lies in this country and he wants to add to his 10 All Blacks caps.

Although last month’s declaration resulted in All Blacks coach Steve Hansen calling him to encourage him not to leave, Guildford’s desire to keep playing in New Zealand appears to have largely been driven by a lack of interest from overseas clubs.

‘‘My agent has put some feelers out there but it has got to the stage where I just want to nail down a contract,’’ Guildford said.

‘‘I would say I want to stick around here now. Probably, earlier in the year, I would have said I want to go and get out of here and run away from things.

‘‘But now I would like to stay here and give it a good crack. But the contract thing is pretty slow at the moment which is a pretty frustrating.’’

Guildford, 24, who made a delayed return to the Crusaders’ Super Rugby campaign after booking himself into a rehabilitation clinic to address his alcohol issues, appears likely to return to Hawke’s Bay.

He hopes his form during the NPC can convince Hansen he can still add some value to his All Blacks.

Despite recently stating he was concerned about the paucity of top-class wings in New Zealand, Hansen omitted Guildford from his 38-man wider training squad, preferring uncapped Blues flyers Frank Halai and Francis Saili alongside the established Hosea Gear and Julian Savea instead.

Rene Ranger and Ben Smith can also play on the wing.

‘‘I would like to be in there (the All Blacks) so I just have to aim for the end-of-year tour,’’ Guildford added.

‘‘When he (Hansen) heard I was going overseas he told me to stay but I haven’t really heard from him since. Obviously I’m not in the frame at the moment, so I just have to play better.’’

Following a shaky return - he made his comeback for Crusaders in their sixth-round match against the Southern Kings on March 23 - Guildford has slowly begun to grind his way back towards his optimum.

Although the finisher has only scored two tries, his error-rate has been low, his defence sound and he has lost none of his acceleration.

The highlight of his performance during last weekend’s 23-3 win over the Blues was the desperate tackle on Saili as he steamed past Dan Carter’s inside shoulder and towards the tryline.

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Guildford’s contract with the Crusaders and the New Zealand Rugby Union expires after the Super Rugby season.

Hawke’s Bay coach Craig Philpott yesterday confirmed he was keen for Guildford to return.

‘‘Absolutely. We just hope to go through the process,’’ Philpott said. ‘‘Certainly the noises we are hearing are that he is keen. And we are keen. I’m hoping pretty hopeful that we will get there.’’

The recently-completed collective agreement negotiations between the NZRU and Players’ Association have resulted in the salary cap being reduced, which will affect the pay-out to top players, but it is understood these have not been a major stumbling block between Hawke’s Bay and Guildford.

The sooner a deal is inked, the better, says Guildford.

‘‘I would like to have it sorted out three or four months ago but that is not the case. Everything is pretty slow which is frustrating.’’

- The Press

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