Rugby Union: Wilson is just pure Black gold: Steve Bale enjoys a moment of history from the man of the moment

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The Independent Online
JEFF WILSON had just become the first player to score a hat-trick of tries on his New Zealand debut when it was being suggested to him he might have to give up serious rugby. Give it up? To become an All Black is to be sanctified in New Zealand and for Wilson, a tender 20, to score two tries more than Jim Bolger's parliamentary majority in Wellington is to ascend to a form of sainthood.

But Wilson is also an international cricketer who has played in four one-day matches for New Zealand and there will come a time to choose. 'I would be very disappointed if he didn't totally commit himself to rugby until after the next World Cup,' Laurie Mains, the All Blacks coach, said anxiously. 'Let me make it very clear I haven't had any discussion with him on that topic. I have a great deal of respect for the man's maturity and it's our job to make it so enjoyable that he wants to stay in rugby but that's a decision he has to make.'

This is more pressing than it may seem, because the New Zealand cricketers will tour England next summer and, according to Mains, it would be impossible for Wilson to combine both careers at anything above provincial level.

As for Wilson, he says he has not even thought about it. 'It's certainly a decision I'll have to make in the future but not at the moment. I'm focused on this tour and playing rugby now. The cricket tour of England is the last thing on my mind at the moment.'

Good for him, though the question is bound to be asked again. As recently as June 1992 he scored 66 points (nine tries and 15 conversions) in a match for Cargill High School, Invercargill, but last season, having moved from Southland to Otago, he was injured when the Lions were in Dunedin and was not even a permanent member of the Otago side.

Small wonder that his inclusion on tour in place of the illustrious John Kirwan was seen by many as useful for his development but also a way of forcing Kirwan to take time off rugby after years playing New Zealand off-seasons in Italy. Perceptions have swiftly changed, not only because of Wilson's try-scoring but for his cricketer's handling of the ball in tight corners and the acceleration (at 16 he ran 100m in 11sec) which creates so much room for others.

First he ran away from 40 yards after a cut-out pass by Frank Bunce; then, despite Scott Hastings's spurious protest, he beat Hastings to John Timu's kick; finally, and brilliantly, he took a reverse pass from Stu Forster coming infield before swivelling out again and burning up a gaggle of Scottish defenders.

By the time he converted the third, the wizard Wilson - like David Campese a wing who prefers full-back - could do nothing wrong. 'I got a lot of opportunities and I was grateful I could take them,' he murmured. His team- mates, for Otago and New Zealand, call him 'Golden'. The boy with the Midas touch.