Julian Savea’s continued exile from the All Black squad has raised eyebrows among rugby fans and All Black selector Grant Fox has lifted the lid on what he expects from the blockbusting wing to reclaim his place in the World Champion backline.
Since being dropped for the British and Irish Lions tests, to his credit, Savea has stayed quiet on social media and worked hard on his fitness, and produced some compelling form for the Wellington Lions winning run in the National Championship. In the final, we were treated to a trademark Savea play when the big wing loomed up in the backline and flattened two opposition defenders on his way to try line.
But despite this form, Savea was not selected for the All Blacks’ Northern tour with rookie wing Matt Duffie selected ahead of the 45 try Savea. The All Blacks’ loss was the Barbarians’ gain, as Savea’s selection will provide a lick-your-lips opportunity for revenge when he lines up in the famous black and white stripes and faces the haka for the first time on November 4th. Certainly the wiry 92kg Duffie will be hoping he doesn’t have a 106kg ‘Bus’ hurtling at him at Twickenham.
In an interview on RadioLIVE, All Black selector Grant Fox explained the reasons for the head-scratching omission.
“The ball’s in Juls’ court,” he said. “I think what Julian really needs is to have a really big off-season, get himself in the best possible shape. He can find his speed and agility again.
“He’s getting there, but we don’t think he’s quite there yet. I think a big off-season will help him do that.
“Super Rugby will be pretty critical to Juls’ All Blacks future next year.”
Fox also stated that Savea’s age meant that maintaining peak condition and speed became incrementally more difficult, adding: “As you get older, the speedsters often become a little bit of a problem for them; it becomes challenging.
“So he’s just got to plot his way through that. Whether that’s diet or losing a bit of weight, I don’t know – all sorts of things just to find that little bit of sharpness again and find the agility to beat players , find that little bit – maybe deeper aerobic fitness – to up their work rate a little bit.
“That all gets harder as athletes get older, no matter what position, so those are just areas he’s just got to keep chipping away at.”
Fox also hinted that complacency and lack of motivation also played a part in the selector’s thoughts.
“Time away will help him rekindle that fire again – we often find that happens,” he added.
“You don’t sometimes appreciate what you’ve got till it’s not there anymore.”
Statements like these are bound to light a fire in Savea’s mind, and the All Blacks themselves may the victims of his frustration on November 4.
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