LONDON – Julian Savea “knows what he needs to do” in order to regain his place in the New Zealand side, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen insisted on Thursday.
Powerhouse wing Savea will line up against his compatriots for the Barbarians at Twickenham on Saturday, with world champions New Zealand’s side including his younger brother Ardie.
Julian Savea boasts one of the best strike-rates in Test history, with a remarkable 46 tries in just 54 internationals.
But the leading try-scorer at the 2015 World Cup was left out of New Zealand’s squad for their recent and victorious Rugby Championship campaign and the likes of Seta Tamanivalu, who will start for the All Blacks on Saturday, have denied the Wellington flyer a place in their European tour party as well.
Earlier this week, Julian Savea suggested he hadn’t had much contact from Hansen since being left out following the drawn third Test against the British and Irish Lions in Auckland in June.
But Hansen insisted on Thursday they had been in touch, adding that a return to Test rugby for a player nicknamed ‘The Bus’ was about more than how he performed for the invitational Barbarians this weekend.
“I don’t think it’s a trial match for Julian, we’ve got a plan for him,” Hansen said of the 27-year-old wing.
“It’s about him enjoying his rugby and getting in a good head-space about that. He’s been a very, very good Test player.
“We’ve just given him a break away from the environment at the moment.”
Hansen added: “Who better to play for if you’re looking to get excited than the Barbarians, because they’ll be doing plenty of running.
“He’s getting the right messages. He said he hadn’t spoken to us, but he came up and saw us two weeks afterwards and we made a plan.
“So he knows what he needs to do.”
Meanwhile, loose forward Ardie Savea said there would be no quarter given when the two brothers faced each other at Twickenham.
Earlier this week Julian said he would be “very excited” to play against New Zealand and Ardie, having met his brother on Wednesday, was equally enthusiastic about the game.
“I think it’ll be the first time I’ll be playing against him,” Ardie Savea said.
“He’ll be pretty excited to face the All Blacks, but I’m pretty excited too. I caught up with Jules, he’s pretty pumped.”
Ardie, three years Julian’s junior at 24 and a veteran of 22 Tests since making his Test debut last year, added: “I didn’t really ask him too much about his situation. I just knew by talking to him, about the things he’s done this week.
“But at the same time, we’re ready as well. I said, ‘We’re brothers off the field, but when we go up against each other, it’s a different story’.”
Ardie indicated his brother had rediscovered his enthusiasm for rugby, saying Julian was now “running over players again”.
“Just from observing him playing with the Wellington Lions, he took on that captaincy role and that’s something new for him,” Ardie explained.
“He’s enjoying playing footy again, he’s running over guys again.
“He could have dropped a bit and had a sulk, but he’s fighting hard, working hard, and most of all he’s having fun.”