Hosea Gear had set his sights on making a return to New Zealand duty at next year’s World Cup in England after helping the Barbarians restore their credibility at Twickenham on Sunday.
The 30-year-old wing scored two tries in the Barbarians 39-29 victory over a novice England side which went sone some way to dousing the criticism that had come the invitational side’s way following heavy defeats last year.
Gear, who is set to leave French giants Toulouse for Japanese second tier side Honda heat before taking up a Super Rugby contract in New Zealand, accepted he faced a “massive challenge” in trying to add to his tally of 14 caps with the world champion All Blacks.
But he insisted it was one he was relishing after bolstering the Barbarians modern-day reputation.
“This is a unique side, a side that’s very difficult to put together, considering the seasons in different countries, and just trying to field an international side,” said Gear.
“One thing we spoke about as soon as we got together was that we needed to win, and that the way the public were perceiving the side was that it could have gone either way — if we’d continued to lose it’s almost a waste of time having a Barbarians side.
“So for us it was really important to win. That’s what we set out to do, to try to keep the Barbarians club alive.”
England will begin a three-Test series against New Zealand this Saturday without players who took part in the May 31 English Premiership final between Northampton and Saracens at Twickenham.
Gear, while sympathising with the predicament of England coach Stuart Lancaster, said he expected the All Blacks to approach the clash at Auckland’s Eden Park with typical ruthlessness.
“They’ve got some new guys just coming into the side who have been in really, really top form.
“I think it is going to be very difficult (for England) as it always is playing in New Zealand.”
As for his own future, the globe-trotting Gear added: “From here I’m headed to Japan for one season. Their season starts in August and runs through to February.
“Then I am heading home to play Super Rugby to give myself the opportunity to make the All Blacks for the World Cup.”
– ‘Mentally frustrated’ –
Asked why he’d left New Zealand to join Toulouse, Gear replied: “For me it was difficult. I’d been in and out of the All Blacks, mentally I was a little bit frustrated.
“I wanted to head away and experience playing against some of the top players, the best players in the world, in the northern hemisphere.
“I think for my family as well, I have three young children, and when you are playing rugby back in New Zealand, you spend a lot of time away so it was a good opportunity to spend more time at home with them.
“I got asked a few months ago (to play for the Barbarians) and I think there were questions of ‘wouldn’t you rather take a break?’ because I played in 33 matches and played 80 minutes in each one.
“But for me, looking ahead towards the World Cup, I think I needed some sort of top-level football, international class rugby.
“I’m feeling good, I feel like I don’t need a rest.”
“I spoke to Steve Hansen (New Zealand’s coach) before I left and I mentioned there was a possibility I could come back and he was all for that.
“At the same time I think it will probably help create a little bit more depth in New Zealand rugby for that World Cup effort.”
However, Gear conceded breaking into a back three featuring the likes of Julian Savea, Cory Jane and Israel Dagg would be no easy task.
“It is going to be a massive challenge, the outside backs they’ve got at the moment have been doing an awesome job and there’s probably no reason to leave anyone of them out.
“It’s a massive challenge but one I’m looking forward to.”