After the drugs and violence, Hock ready to relaunch Test career

 

Gareth Hock will tonight resume the international career he did his best to ruin. The Wigan back-row forward is back in the England fold for the International Origin match against the cream of Super League's overseas players.

That is after serving a two-year ban for cocaine use and destroying his chances of an immediate return to the Test arena last season by earning an eight-match suspension for gouging. This season, he has just returned from a two-match ban for his part in a punch-up with St Helens.

There are those who question whether this is the record of a man who should be welcomed back with quite such open arms. Not surprisingly, Hock, his captain and his coach are not among them. "I think I've earned a second chance," Hock says. "When I was banned, I could have gone right off the rails, but I've worked hard. I've been going around the schools and I volunteered to be drug-tested every week."

He has cleaned up that aspect of his act, but the question remains over his short fuse and the ability of opponents to wind him up. There again, Hock believes he has changed his spots. "I think I've done well with controlling my temper. That last ban, there wasn't much in it."

Hock has undoubtedly had a cooler head since making some changes off the field. He has a new girlfriend and a baby son and gives a wider berth to some of his old mates.He was also pulled up short by the death of his friend Terry Newton, which gave the most graphic illustration possible of how a sporting career can go tragically wrong.

At 28, Hock has plenty of time to get his career back on track, starting tonight at Langtree Park. He admits that the ambition to return to Test rugby was one of the things that sustained him during his self-inflicted exile. "I want to pit myself against the best back-rowers in the world," he says.

What is not in dispute is his ability. It was once said of another player that tackling him was "like tackling a bag of chisels"; encountering Hock's angular bulk must be like tackling a sack of power-tools.

On top of that, he has deft hand-ling skills and plenty of that elusive commodity, rugby intelligence.

"He's been far and away the best forward in Super League this season," says his captain against the Exiles tonight, Jamie Peacock. "He's paid for what he's done and he's a good example of someone who should get a second chance in life."

Peacock has had his own intimations of mortality this week, with some very public questioning of his credentials still to be leading his country. The former Leeds and Great Britain captain Garry Schofield accused him of playing "like a man of 40", sparking a furious Twittersphere spat between the two men that the current incumbent might have been better to stay out of.

Peacock says the only opinions of his performances that he cares about are those of his coach and team-mates. "I've the utmost confidence in all the players, particularly Jamie Peacock," says that coach, Steve McNamara. "I've known him as a character and a player for a long time and I know he will have been saving one of his best games for this weekend."

The pressure on senior players to maintain their standards is underlined by the absence tonight of Adrian Morley. Fresh faces are the new right-wing combination of Josh Charnley and Carl Ablett, with the Wigan prop Lee Mossop on the bench. McNamara sticks with Kevin Sinfield and Rangi Chase in the half-backs, keeping Danny Brough waiting to wear an England shirt.

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor