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'Send him for many reasons': Ex-All Black first five backs Julian Savea for All Blacks XV

By Ned Lester
Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ex-All Blacks first five Stephen Donald has thrown his support behind Julian Savea for a roster spot in the All Blacks XV who are set to tour Europe for two tests in November.

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Savea played 54 tests for the All Blacks between 2012 and 2017, winning the World Cup in 2015.

Affectionately know as “The bus”, Savea returned to New Zealand and Super Rugby after a brief stint at Toulon in 2020, making no secret of his ambitions for re-selection in the All Blacks.

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However, with the youthful talent of Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan, Leicester Faianga’anuku and Sevu Reece making up the All Blacks wing stocks, Savea’s ambition looks to have fallen short – despite some vintage outings for the Hurricanes.

Donald told SENZ’s The Run Home that Savea would make an invaluable asset to the All Blacks new secondary team.

“Send him … send him for so many reasons,” Donald said.

“Send him because winger-wise, he couldn’t be that far out of the reckoning.

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“Secondly, (if) you’ve got a team like that that you’re sending away, imagine having one of our greatest ever a part of it?”

The selection debate can be swung depending on the purpose New Zealand Rugby see for the new representative squad.

The philosophy has been communicated as a development team, with NZR calling it a “high-performance pathway to the All Blacks” but also referring to the team as the next “tier” of talent rather than the next generation.

“It’d be fascinating what way they go with that,” Donald continued. “If it wasn’t World Cup next year, would it be full of 21, 22 year olds that might be the future of the All Blacks?

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“I’d like to see it not, I’d like to see it be a genuine, ‘you’re next cab off the rank, you deserve to go on this trip and play these games.’ so, it’ll be interesting to see.”

Blues coach Leon McDonald was announced as head coach of the team this week and will be joined in the coaches box by Clayton McMillan and Scott Hansen.

Savea’s experience and versatility offers real food for thought for McDonald and co in a selection field ripe with talent and form on display weekly across the NPC.

On the other hand, McDonald could be instructed to select a younger roster with eyes on the future, as NZR’s Head of High Performance Mike Anthony said:

“The quality of these matches will present an ideal challenge and development opportunity to experience different playing styles and get exposure to overseas touring. To play against international opposition, in front of large, passionate crowds is invaluable for our next tier of talent a year out from RWC 2023.”

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