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'The midfield is where I want to end up': Julian Savea wants All Blacks No 12 jersey

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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Former All Blacks star Julian Savea says he wants to return to the New Zealand national side – but as a second-five rather than a wing.

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Speaking to NZ Rugby World, Savea outlined his ambitions to return to the test arena for the All Blacks as a midfielder, five years after his last outing for the New Zealand.

“The midfield is where I want to end up,” the 31-year-old said. “I want to be more of a playmaker, in behind the forwards, making the calls. The goal is to get back there [the All Blacks].  It’s why I’m trying to play the best rugby I can.”

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A powerful wing who scored 46 tries in 54 tests between 2012 and 2017, Savea has broadened his skillset and positional versatility since he last played for the All Blacks.

While his offshore move to Toulon was described by Savea as “often awful”, it led to a positional switch to second-five, where he played frequently for the French glamour club.

Upon his return to New Zealand two years ago, Savea continued to play there occasionally for Wellington and the Hurricanes, but has been used there just once in Super Rugby Pacific this season.

That appearance came against the Blues back in February, where he marked superstar All Blacks candidate Roger Tuivasa-Sheck as part of a midfield duo with Hurricanes standout Bailyn Sullivan.

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While he has barely featured at second-five for the Hurricanes, Savea’s comments that he is intent on playing there for the All Blacks are eye-catching given the uncertainty regarding who will play there for Ian Foster’s side.

With veteran midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown gone for virtually the whole season due to a shoulder injury, there is no outright frontrunner to partner with Rieko Ioane, who is widely tipped to start at centre for the All Blacks.

Quinn Tupaea was last week labelled as the “incumbent” for the role by former All Blacks hooker James Parsons, while David Havili picked to the play there regularly for New Zealand last year.

Both players featured prominently due to the absence of Jack Goodhue, the next most experienced midfielder in the country behind Ioane and Lienert-Brown who has just returned from a year-long, injury-induced sideline spell.

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Elsewhere, Tuivasa-Sheck’s progress in rugby union continues to grab headlines, Jordie Barrett looms as a potential midfield option, and uncapped pair Thomas Umaga-Jensen and Alex Nankivell both have the potential to be bolter selections.

Now on record with his aspirations of an All Blacks comeback in the midfield, Savea can now be added to that list of contenders, although his chances of selection may be impacted by his continual selection on the wing for the Hurricanes.

Savea has started there in eight of the franchise’s 12 matches this year, but could yet earn selection in the midfield in this week’s clash against the Rebels in Wellington on Saturday.

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