Julian Savea always focussed to beat Wallabies
GEORGINA ROBINSON provides an Australian perspective of the All Black wing.
All Blacks try-scoring machine Julian Savea hates losing to Australia.
Hates it. Would take a loss against anyone over having to congratulate a grinning player in a gold jersey after 80 minutes of blood, sweat and tears.
It goes back to his schoolboy days, and links directly with the Wallabies he helped hold to a draw with a try-saving tackle on Australian wing Pat McCabe last weekend.
Savea, now an established member of the All Blacks set-up thanks to a gob-smacking 23 tries in 23 tests, was part of the New Zealand Schools team that lost to Australia for the first time in 10 years in 2007.
He scored a late try in that match to peg back the Australian Schoolboys' 23-10 lead to 23-17 with a few minutes left on the clock. But frantic defence helped Australia to hold out and break a decade-long drought on home soil.
Adding insult to injury, New Zealand Schools were beaten on their home soil for the first time in the 30-year history of the schools competition by their arch enemies, in New Plymouth in 2008. Savea was there for that one, too.
''It still hurts,'' Savea said. ''That's probably why I still don't like losing to them. That rivalry is always going to be strong.''
There's no saying how he felt about the draw, then, against two of those same players, back in Sydney seven years later.
Wallabies centre Matt Toomua was the Australian Schoolboys' five-eighth in 2007 and wing Rob Horne their centre.
Toomua contributed 13 points to the win off his boot and Horne scored the home side's first try.
The Bledisloe Cup opener was not a loss, after all. But it was the end of a golden run of victories and as close to a loss to Australia as you imagine one imagines Savea might like to come.
While the Wallabies and Springboks consider the All Blacks their fiercest rival, the Hurricanes wing New Zealand has nicknamed ''The Bus'' knows which side he dreams of beating.
''I can't really speak for the team but, for myself, it's always been the Aussies,'' he said.
''Especially growing up, watching every game, I've never liked losing to them.''
Savea did not have to grow used to the feeling.
He lined up against Toomua again - plus Wallabies halfback Nic White - in the junior world championships in 2010, where New Zealand thumped their trans-Tasman rivals 62-17 in the final.
It is still the Australian under-20s worst-ever loss, and Savea's record at test level was three from three until last week's weekend's draw.
Hoodoo or no at Eden Park, the All Blacks are wary.
''[They are] a huge threat,'' he said of the Wallabies last week.
''Off the back of the Super Rugby final, their confidence is up there and their team chemistry has come a long way. They're playing as a team and playing for something.''
Sydney Morning Herald