Former All Blacks star Julian Savea has been warned by Auckland Mitre 10 Cup coach Alama Ieremia that time is running out if he wants to commit to play for the province in this season’s campaign.
Savea has returned to New Zealand following a two-year stint in France’s Top 14 competition with Toulon, signing a two-week deal as injury cover for the Hurricanes towards the end of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
While he didn’t take to the field for the franchise he made 116 appearances for between 2011 and 2018, the 30-year-old played club rugby in Wellington for Oriental Rongotai last month.
Despite his ties to the Wellington region, Savea is now living in Auckland where his partner’s family resides, and has spoken recently of his desire to play for a province within the area.
Three Mitre 10 Cup sides – Auckland, North Harbour and Counties Manukau – exist within the city, but North Harbour have already named their squad for the 2020 season, which kicks off in under three weeks.
That has already diminished playing options for Savea, leaving Ieremia to urge the 54-test All Black to come to a consensus about where he wants to play.
“We connected when he arrived home, but that was back in the original lockdown,” Ieremia told Newshub. “He has to make his mind up about where he wants to play, so that’s probably a question for him.
“He just needs to tell us when he has his mind made up, because we are pretty happy where our squad is at.”
During his time in both France and Wellington club rugby, Savea has been deployed in the midfield at No. 12, despite making a name for himself and playing most of his career on the wing.
The 2015 World Cup winner and 2016 Super Rugby champion has spoken about his newfound preference to play in the midfield rather than on the wing, but Ieremia told Newshub his midfield ambitions might not be realised with Auckland.
“I know he said he wants to play No. 12, but playing midfield in club rugby is a little different to Mitre 10 Cup, so we will see.”
With a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in New Zealand, Auckland has been the hardest hit city in the country as it continues to endure a level three lockdown.
That has forced the cancellation of two pre-season games while another, scheduled for September 4, is in significant doubt.
That leaves Auckland facing the prospect of kicking off their Mitre 10 Cup campaign against Otago in Dunedin on September 12 without having played any rugby beforehand.
However, Ieremia hopes his side can congregate and train together before September 6, when the entire country may be back to level one restrictions.
“We are just looking for some clarity around what that looks like in terms of training and the numbers of players we are allowed.
“There are protocols around health and safety, so we just need to get our head around that, but we realise there are more important things going on at the moment around the country.”
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