Henry backs Rokocoko to perform
July 3, 2010
Joe Rokocoko has been praised © Getty Images
All Blacks boss Graham Henry has praised the recent contribution of Joe Rokocoko and defended his decision to include the Blues wing in his Tri-Nations squad ahead of Zac Guildford and Hosea Gear.
While Rokocoko endured a difficult 2009, his form during this season's Super 14 warranted a Test recall and Henry believes that he played his part in superb counter-attacking efforts in recent Tests against Ireland and Wales.
"Joe played very well in the first two Test matches, and I thought he added a lot to what we were doing," Henry said."He's an experienced campaigner and the back three played exceptionally well in those first two Tests.
"One of the qualities of a back-three player is you've got to be able to play with the other two. You just can't be a lone ranger, so if you can't work with the other two on counter-attack you've got problems. Our counter-attack was the best it's ever been those first two tests and Joe Roks was part of it."
Guildford also featured against the northern hemisphere tourists but was overlooked in Henry's squad, while Gear was in electrifying form in the colours of the New Zealand Maori, scoring a hat-trick as they defeated England. Henry, though, believes that the 26-year-old still has work to do to win further Test recognition.
"There is more to it than a guy getting the ball with a bit of space and running quick and putting it in the corner," he said. "There are a lot of plusses about that, but at Test-match level you don't get those opportunities very often."
The All Blacks kick-off their Tri-Nations in Auckland next Saturday, with the reigning champion Springboks the visitors to Eden Park.
"We obviously need to start well if we want to win the Tri-Nations, so it is all ahead of us over the next two Saturdays," he said."It is stimulating to be playing the best team in the world, I think the guys are really excited about that. It's good to start at home rather than playing at altitude in South Africa so that is helpful. We know it is a big task and we are looking forward to that task."
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin
After Brian O'Driscoll's emotional final Ireland appearance on home soil, and seeing the Six Nations boil down to a three-horse race, we bring you the Weekend in PIctures
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year