Ailing Worcester seek to pick up the pace with Gear

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The Independent Online

Rico Gear, by some distance the finest wing not to play at the recent World Cup, finally surfaced at Worcester yesterday and my, how they need him. Mike Ruddock's team may boast a 100 per cent record in the European Challenge Cup, but on this season's list of priorities, Europe is somewhere down near the earth's core. In the Premiership, the tournament that keeps the wolf from the door, they are threatened by relegation.

Gear has been quiet of late, thanks to the decision of the All Blacks' coach, Graham Henry, to take Joe Rokocoko, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Doug Howlett to France and leave the fourth of his world-class wings to play some low-key provincial rugby in New Zealand. He does not intend to be quiet for much longer. "I plan to make the most of every chance that comes my way," said the 29-year-old from Gisborne. "I hope the first of those chances will be against Gran Parma." Worcester play the Italians in the Challenge Cup this weekend.

Said to be the most expensive signing in the club's history, Gear joins two other recent All Blacks Sam Tuitupou and Greg Rawlinson at Sixways. "I already feel at home here," he said. "I'm familiar with Sam and Greg, and that has made it easier, but I wanted to try something different anyway and while their presence was a factor, the main thing was a desire to play in the Premiership, which is one of the best competitions in the world."

His appearance yesterday signalled the start of the latest New Zealand rush for Premiership gold. Today, Leicester are unveiling the All Black centre Aaron Mauger, while Saracens will welcome the much-decorated lock Chris Jack to Watford tomorrow. With Carl Hayman already at Newcastle and Luke McAlister ripping up entire forests of trees at Sale, the silver-ferned contingent will have a big say in the destination of domestic and European trophies come season's end.

Bristol, mildly put out by the decision of Mark Regan to lead the Barbarians against the Springboks at Twickenham last Saturday against the wishes of the top-flight clubs' umbrella organisation Premier Rugby, will discuss the issue with the England hooker before the week is out. Regan had expected to be summoned to a disciplinary meeting yesterday Richard Hill, the head coach, had advised him to "bring his chequebook" but instead he took a full part in training ahead of this weekend's Heineken Cup match at Harlequins.

Talking of the South Africans, the four men hoping to succeed World Cup-winning coach Jake White were being interviewed in Cape Town yesterday. The choice between the backs coach Allister Coetzee, the Under-21 coach Peter de Villiers, the former wing Chester Williams, and the Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer, will be made next month.

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