Rokocoko returns a better winger - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Rokocoko returns a better winger

03/06/2010 01:05:29 PM Comments (0)

Recalled All Blacks winger Joe Rokocoko believes his time in the Test rugby wilderness made him a better player and person.

Dropped from the end-of-year Northern Hemisphere tour last year, Rokocoko has been included in the 26-man squad for Tests against Ireland and Wales this month.

"I've learned a lot along the way," he said.

"It's made me better as a person. I've just learnt to relax more and enjoy every moment."

Rokocoko was left out of the tour party to Japan and Europe because the selectors felt he needed to work on his kicking and his ability under the high ball.

Meanwhile, new rule interpretations this year have reduced the amount of aerial ping-pong in the game and allowed wingers more chances with ball in hand.

During the Super 14, Rokocoko looked to be working back to his dynamic form of old as he nabbed nine tries for the Blues to finish as the competition's equal top scorer with Waratah Drew Mitchell.

"I've enjoyed it and guys backing themselves and not going into their shells and kicking the ball," he said.

"In saying that, I had to adapt to the rules. It got me learning a few new skills."

Since making his All Blacks debut in 2003, when he scored a calendar year record 17 tries in 12 tests, the 26-year-old Rokocoko has amassed 60 caps and 45 tries.

He said his faith and his family, in particular his young son, had kept him strong after he was dropped.

"I had to be smart and not say things too dramatic," he said.

"I just had to sit back and keep close to family, and prayed a lot. The main thing this year has been my belief in God and my family."

Rokocoko comes off contract at the end of the year, and he said he hadn't yet re-signed through to the World Cup next year.

For the moment, he was maintaining his successful strategy this year of concentrating on a month at a time.

"I have no set plans whatsoever," he said of next year.

"I'm concentrating on doing well at training today."

At the squad naming on Sunday, coach Graham Henry praised Rokocoko for the "huge character" he showed in fighting his way back into the All Blacks.

He said Rokocoko could have put up the white flag and gone overseas, but instead put his mind to getting back into test contention.

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