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Ardie Savea describes England's Ben Earl as 'pretty swaggy with the ball'

By PA
Ardie Savea of New Zealand celebrates scoring his team's second try during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between Ireland and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 14, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Ardie Savea sees a kindred spirit in Ben Earl as he places New Zealand on alert for an England forward assault in Dunedin on Saturday.

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Savea and Earl were the outstanding number eights at last autumn’s World Cup and they will go head to head for the first time in the series opener at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The rival back rows have similar builds and share comparable strengths with their explosive carrying, athleticism and footwork central to their teams’ attacking game.

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Walk the Talk – Ardie Savea Trailer | RPTV

All Blacks ace Ardie Savea chatted to Jim Hamilton in Japan, reflecting on the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now on RugbyPass TV

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Walk the Talk – Ardie Savea Trailer | RPTV

All Blacks ace Ardie Savea chatted to Jim Hamilton in Japan, reflecting on the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now on RugbyPass TV

WATCH NOW

Earl even finished the tour opener against Japan at inside centre and Savea, the reigning world player of the year, has been impressed by a 26-year-old who was a peripheral player for England less than a year ago.

“I’m a big fan of Ben,” said Savea, who also described Maro Itoje as a “pillar” of the tourists’ pack.

“He plays similar to myself. He’s pretty swaggy with the ball, runs hard and has got some good feet. He’s someone we need to nullify, but it will be very hard.”

New Zealand have won 33 of their 43 meetings with England yet Savea’s record is less definitive, reading won one, lost one and drawn one.

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The 19-7 defeat in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals was the most painful of those experiences, but the 25-25 draw at Twickenham in their most recent meeting 20 months ago was also instructive.

“England will be direct and strong in the set-piece and at mauling. In the past they’ve had success going through us. If we don’t match that, it will be a long day for us,” Savea said.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
3
Draws
1
Wins
1
Average Points scored
18
18
First try wins
40%
Home team wins
60%

“I myself haven’t really had a good history playing England – the last time I played them we drew.

“They’ve always been awesome battles with England and I’m sure this one will be just as awesome.”

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The first of two Tests against England will be New Zealand’s maiden outing since being edged by South Africa in the World Cup final in November. It will also be Scott Robertson’s baptism as head coach with Scott Barrett the new captain.

When asked what should be expected of the All Blacks, Savea said: “Simple things done well. I expect the boys to look out for each other and show a lot of care.”

Fixture
Internationals
New Zealand
16 - 15
Full-time
England
All Stats and Data

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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1 Comment
B
Barry 13 days ago

Love Ardie!

Stand out moment/comment of the last RWC final.

“Reeeeeeeeeed card!?”

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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