Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Savea close to saving day for Crusaders

Julian Savea of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images
Julian Savea of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images

The Crusaders have made a big step towards making up for the loss of Dan Carter next season with the expected signing of All Blacks wing Julian Savea from the Hurricanes.

The presence of the blockbusting 23-year-old outside back would be a big boost for the Crusaders, who have been ever-present in the Super rugby playoffs for the past five seasons but have lacked finishing power.

Not only will Carter's sabbatical leave the franchise without one of the best first-fives in the world, centre Robbie Fruean's withdrawal due to heart surgery means they also lack size in their backline.

Tom Marshall was a good performer on the right wing this season but feels his best position is at fullback - the major reason why he is moving to the defending champion Chiefs.

Savea will link with fellow wing Zac Guildford and fullback Israel Dagg for Todd Blackadder's outfit, and is likely to be joining Hurricanes teammate and midfielder Rey Lee-Lo, whom the Crusaders are also chasing.

It is understood that the Crusaders were also chasing Hurricanes wing Alapati Leiua but were turned down.

While no one from the franchise would confirm Savea's signing, it is understood that they are close to confirming it. The impending announcement will be a huge blow to the Hurricanes, who have supported Savea since an alleged domestic violence incident in April.

Savea burst on to the test scene last year, scoring three tries on debut against Ireland at Eden Park. He has carried on his incredible rate since, with 13 tries in 13 tests.

The Crusaders this season got by without making any big signings - the addition of the 1.9m, 104kg Savea suggesting they have realised they need some heavy artillery in order to go all the way following their exit to the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Colin Slade will rejoin them from the Highlanders as a replacement for Carter, with Tom Taylor having put in an assured performance on debut for the All Blacks last weekend.

In what is yet another blow for the Hurricanes, Taranaki will place their allegiance with the Chiefs from next season.

- APNZ

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