Ardie Savea fires back: 'Do you feel like we haven't been dominating?'
Ardie Savea has baulked at suggestions that the All Blacks loose forwards have been dominated by the opposition this year.
Savea, perhaps the best performer for the under-fire New Zealand side throughout their season to date, was asked on Thursday what the key was to getting back some of the dominance the loose forwards have shown in the past and the part-time captain seemed perplexed at the implication that his unit has been underperforming in 2022.
“I’m not too sure,” he responded. “Do you feel like we haven’t been dominating the last couple of games?
“I felt like the loosies have been fronting up, and we’re just trying to navigate the space of a new breed of players. I think for so long New Zealand’s been used to Reado [Kieran Read], the McCaws [Richie McCaw], the Jeromes [Jerome Kaino], that have been amazing and you’ve got a bunch of new boys coming through, and us that are trying to stamp their mark.
“So it’s a day-to-day, week-to-week process. But I feel like we’re tracking well, and we’re putting our best foot forward.”
Savea has started every match of the year wearing the No 8 jersey but has at times shifted into the openside flanker role when captain Sam Cane has departed the field late in matches. With Cane a regular at No 7, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali’i and now Shannon Frizell have shared responsibilities on the blindside flank.
While there have certainly been times throughout the year where the trio as a whole haven’t necessarily muscled up to their opposition – specifically in the two defeats suffered at the hands of Ireland in July – the group has functioned well in their two most recent outings against the Springboks and Pumas.
The All Blacks coaches have kept faith with the same trio from the past two fixtures (and, in fact, have kept faith with the entire starting XV for a third game on the trot) and while next year’s World Cup will certainly be in the back of their mind, Savea says the players are very much focussed on the here and now.
“You can say it’s important to build the chemistry around that in terms of thinking of next year [but] mate, I’m thinking about today, pretty much, and this weekend,” he said.
“It’s important to build combinations, but at the same time, you’ve got to perform under those pressure moments, and if you don’t, then things can happen.”
Frizell, Cane and Savea will run out as a loose forward trio for the third time this year and the fourth time in total when they take on the Pumas on Saturday, with the group also featuring in the 2020 defeat to Argentina in Sydney.
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