Julian Savea set for unleashing in test debut
Beauden Barrett calls him the "triple threat" but it's the power game of Julian Savea that's likely to earn the 21-year-old Wellington wing his test debut against Ireland on Saturday night.
Savea is expected to start on the All Blacks' left wing at Auckland's Eden Park as he is the sole survivor of the three original wing choices in the extended training squad.
With both Richard Kahui and Cory Jane having succumbed to injury since that group was unveiled, Savea now seems set to be unleashed alongside either Zac Guildford or Hosea Gear, although Ben Smith is also an option apparently being considered.
Barrett reckons his team-mate is ready for this next transition in a career that has been rocketing along at a fairly steady clip.
"He's worked a lot on his game," Barrett said. "He's running with confidence at the moment and is such a threat with the ball in hand.
"He can chip, he can run around guys or he can run over them. So he's the triple threat. There's no doubt the Irish will have to look out for him."
Savea, who admitted his initial All Black experience via the twin training camps had been a little daunting, appeared to have found his comfort levels now the real thing is here.
Asked about the chances of starting his first test on Saturday night, he said: "Everyone's striving to start. I'm just going to do my best this week and whatever the coaches decide will be what's best for the team. I feel like I'm ready.
"I think that's the reason the coaches picked us, so I'm just getting stuck into this week and hopefully I'll get the chance."
If he does, Savea puts it all down to the over-achieving Hurricanes side which by the June break had carved out an impressive 8-6 record for an unlikely sixth place on the standings.
"I didn't expect to be in the running this year and it's definitely happened a lot quicker than I thought.
"I put that down to the boys playing so well it's helped us get into this team. The key for the Canes this year has been teamwork – we're all buying into our goals. It's a good feeling this year and I think everyone can see that."
Savea called his presence in the test squad a "dream come true", confirmed via a phone call after the Canes' win over the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night, and said his biggest improvement this year had been in the mental aspects of his game.
"It's just knowing my role in the game plan and getting real clarity for what I need do for the team. That's given me confidence and carried on through the year."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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