Savea on track and pushing for spot in ABs

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 13/08/2012
Julian Savea
Maarten Holl/Fairfax NZ
HIGH HOPES: Julian Savea is keen to return to the All Blacks starting lineup.

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Learning curves don't come any steeper than Julian Savea's fleeting All Blacks experience.

It doesn't get much sweeter than scoring three tries on test debut - or much worse than being dropped two weeks later, just two games after achieving a lifelong dream.

Talk about a rollercoaster of emotions.

Savea was happy to give an honest account as he got back to business with the All Blacks in camp in Auckland last week, thrilled and relieved to still be in the mix for the Rugby Championship that opens with Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup battle against the Wallabies in Sydney.

The contrasts were stark for Savea against the Irish.

In front of a packed house at Eden Park, as the All Blacks flexed their muscles with a display of pace and power, Savea seemed born for this arena.

He thrived in the demolition job on Ireland, joining an elite group of hat-trick-scoring All Blacks rookies.

Savea was on cloud nine. But it wasn't long before that false impression was cruelly exposed.

Just seven days later, the Hurricanes wing received a true taste of what test rugby embodied when Ireland came within minutes of their first historic victory over New Zealand on a freezing night in Christchurch.

“I was pretty shaky in the first test and the second was pretty hard.

"No-one wants to be cold,” Savea joked before relieving the tension.

“We all made some mistakes. There was definitely a lot to work on. That's what I took out of it.

"You've got to deal with that pressure. It's in the past, you've got to move forward.”

The lack of counter-attacking chances didn't allow Savea to settle or showcase his skills.

The challenging conditions did not suit his lethal finishing prowess. He didn't enjoy the high-ball peppering and limited opportunities.

And so Savea found out rapidly the minimal room for error at test level. He was dropped from the squad for the dead-rubber conclusion in Hamilton, as Zac Guildford and Hosea Gear got their chance on the wings.

Savea could have dropped his bundle, suffered a severe loss of confidence.

That was not the case.

The 21-year-old survived the axe and, after being told to focus on his aerial stability and workrate, is now locked in a head-to-head tussle with Gear for the left-wing berth.

Meanwhile, Sonny Bill Williams remains in limbo for Saturday's test but there is no panic in the All Blacks camp.

The All Blacks are expected to provide an update on Williams' protracted contract scenario today as they seek an extra two weeks' work out of him against the Australians before he heads off to his Japanese club.

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From coach Steve Hansen to captain Richie McCaw and manager Darren Shand, there remains quiet confidence that Williams will be in their mix.

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- The Dominion Post

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