Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Savea in line for return to All Blacks

Julian Savea. Photo / Richard Robinson
Julian Savea. Photo / Richard Robinson

Julian Savea's All Black involvement has been restricted to promotional activities and the training field since his trouble under the high ball against Ireland.

The wing has not been required on the bench as utilities such as Tamati Ellison or Ben Smith have been picked to cover the outside backs' duties.

However, the 22-year-old may get the nod when the All Blacks unveil their side tomorrow to host the Pumas when the Rugby Championship shifts to the Cake Tin on Saturday.

You sense coach Steve Hansen is in no great mood to make changes. He wants his top drawer picks to return to action after a week's layoff so they are primed for all areas of the contest the following week against the Boks in Dunedin.

The forwards were robust and cohesive enough against the Wallabies and should all get picked again while Sonny Bill Williams is absent from the backline and Hosea Gear is perhaps the only man whose place might be in question.

There were times against the Wallabies at Eden Park when he looked out of sync in the back three and others when you wanted to jump out of your seat and demand he thunder down the left flank and challenge defenders more.

Ma'a Nonu will shift in a spot for Williams and if the dripfed medical bulletins are accurate about Conrad Smith, he will be cleared to return at centre after his eye surgery.

If that happens, Smith and Nonu will start their 36th test together in midfield after first running out in test tandem for the first time in 2008 when the All Blacks hosted Ireland at the Cake Tin.

So will those Wellingtonians be joined by another?

Savea's younger brother, Ardie, sped into the spotlight for Wellington in weekend ITM Cup action when his display showed why he is such a highly rated loose forward.

There is a growing thought his older brother, Julian, will return to the left wing for his first All Black appearance on his home track. His test work halted 2 months ago when he was part of a modest All Black output which squeaked past Ireland 22-19 in Christchurch.

Several players were ejected after that match. Savea, Zac Guildford, Adam Thomson and Brodie Retallick lost out while changes were needed for the injured Daniel Carter and Kieran Read.

In the interim, Savea played out the Super 15 series and then held his place as one of three three wings in the reduced All Black squad numbers with Corey Jane and Gear.

So far Savea, Conrad Smith, Thomson, and Charlie Faumuina are the only members of the 28-man squad who have yet to take the field in the Rugby Championship.

Juan Martin Hernandez returns to the No10 jumper for Argentina in the team named yesterday.

Hernandez missed Argentina's 16-16 draw with South Africa in Mendoza on August 25 with a groin injury but has recovered to replace Nicolas Sanchez. The other change to the Pumas sees openside flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon return in place of Alvaro Galindo.

The Pumas will name their reserves tomorrow and the All Blacks will announce their playing 22 on the same day.

- NZ Herald

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