Savea stars in All Black romp against Ireland
The Irish can't say they weren't warned. At the start of this week Julian Savea was dubbed a "triple threat" by a team-mate who predicted big things for the new All Black wing. He was right on both fronts.
Savea had a dream debut on the left for the All Blacks as they launched the Steve Hansen era in about as much style as could be expected for a first test match of the new season on the back of six days' preparation.
And the "triple threat" reference ended up being prescient as the 21-year-old ran in three tries to elevate a memorable night to the spectacular.
It was Hurricanes and new All Black team-mate Beauden Barrett who had described Savea's multi-faceted ability to beat defenders.
"He can chip, he can run around guys or he can run over them - so he's the triple threat," said the chirpy Barrett.
"There's no doubt the Irish will have to look out for him."
Forewarned was not forearmed as Savea picked up two tries in an impressive second quarter by the All Blacks and had his hat-trick early in the second half as the best team in the world romped to a 42-10 victory.
His effort on debut is eclipsed only by Sitiveni Sivivatu's quartet of touchdowns in the 91-0 demolition of Fiji at Albany in 2005.
It was hard to shake the feeling last night that we witnessed something special being launched on to the test rugby stage as the young man who had been the IRB's under-20 player of the year back in 2010 made a seamless transition to the highest level.
This son of Samoan immigrants who has blazed an impressive trail through the rugby ranks in Wellington looks born to it.
He's got pace, size and strength in pretty formidable quantities. Not quite Jonah-like with his power, and maybe not quite the dexterity on his feet of a Sivivatu at his best.
But when you add the whole package together it's impressive.
Savea's favourite All Black as a young 'un had been Joe Rokococko, another pretty handy winger in his day.
And there was a fair bit of 'Joe Rocks' about the way the Wellingtonian went about his business last night.
His first try was a classic piece of finishing as Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams and Dan Carter worked their magic to put the speedster away; and the second was pure power as Israel Dagg's wide, flat pass gave him the space to man his way through Rob Kearney and Connor Murray.
Again Dagg was the provider when the hat-trick was clinched just after the break, the masterful fullback committing Kearney beautifully to put Savea across. Right place, right time ... right on!
Hansen and his selectors deserve credit here too. They had identified him among their top three wings in their initial squad, with some doubt expressed about his promotion ahead of such proven performers as Zac Guildford and Hosea Gear, who would both eventually join him through injuries.
But Hansen and his sidekicks got this right. This young man is the future of the All Blacks, and now is the time to unleash him. Let him build the experience, the nous, the knowledge.
A young man who used to literally dance for his supper at family gatherings - along with his younger brother Ardie who is dazzling the sevens scene - had too much slick in his step for the Irish last night.
Really this test had been so much about the three new boys as Hansen introduced three debutants to start the process of regeneration.
Savea was the hit, no doubt. Halfback Aaron Smith looked useful as he got things rolling after the slow start with his crisp passing game, though further evidence is probably needed in arguably our most competitive position.
And we'll probably wait a few more tests before offering anything definitive on Brodie Retallick, who at 21 is a lock of incredible promise.
They'll come through this series, for sure.
Others to impress as the world champions continued their remarkable home winning streak (they haven't lost in New Zealand since September of 2009) included Israel Dagg, Daniel Carter - back to his best, no doubt - and the magnificent Kieran Read at No 8.
Richie McCaw lived what I'd been told he would too, the skipper said to be brutally determined there would be no post-World Cup letdown. There wasn't.
(J Savea 3, A Thomson, C Smith tries; D Carter 3 pens, 4 cons)
(F McFadden try; J Sexton pen, con)
- Fairfax Media
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