Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Black wings ready to rampage against Wales

The All Blacks have talked about keeping things simple at Eden Park. And they have an easy out on that front - fling the ball to either wing and see what happens.

Strike power is not an issue for the All Blacks. They have about 210kg of human on their flanks - split between two men whose complexities extend to getting the ball in their hands and running.

In Julian Savea, the All Blacks have, when he's physically fit and mentally right, the most destructive wing in world rugby.

His record of 38 tries in 41 tests is the most prolific in history - better than Jonah Lomu's, Bryan Habana's, Christian Cullen's, Jeff Wilson's and Joe Rokocoko's.

Waisake Naholo, who will be on the other wing for the All Blacks, has the potential to build an equally impressive strike rate such has been his ability in Super Rugby to score from situations others would consider hopeless.

This is a break from the norm, having mostly opted to pick a finisher and an auxiliary fullback on their wings since 2009. It's a one-two punch that could knock out Wales and the All Blacks won't shy away from making it their default option to push the ball wide early to bring Savea and Naholo into the action.

That's partly what the combination is all about - giving the All Blacks an escape valve. A player on either side of the field who can get them going forward, make something happen and spark the team into life.

Given the lukewarm form and fitness of Savea through Super Rugby, there may also be some desire to try to bring him into the game early and build his confidence.

Behind the scenes this week, the All Blacks have been gently coercing him into a good mental state and encouraging him to play his natural game when the time comes.

"He is pretty hungry from a rugby point of view," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. "He knows he's overdue to put a bit in for the team. We have had a good week with him and I'm expecting him to play really well. I think you will see the old Julian Savea that we all know and love come Saturday."

It's likely, too, that as well as using Savea and Naholo in wider channels, they will look to bring both their wings into the game through the middle of the park, either from first receiver or with a bit of deception, charging off Aaron Cruden's shoulder.

Wales won't be daunted being confronted by such big men - they have a wing giant of their own in George North - but they will be blunted by the relentless toll of defending men with such power.

Naholo is particularly good at driving into contact from first receiver and despite the fact he's played three tests, there is a sense of his international career just beginning.

He broke his leg on debut last year and didn't have any game time behind him when he went to the World Cup. Re-breaking the same leg this year set him back for another eight weeks and there is a feeling that he's ready to erupt - that he's got a whole other level to give.

He's reputed to be the quickest All Black in the squad and he combines that with agility, power and a solid set of ball skills that he applies well on attack and defence.

"He hasn't given much to it," Hansen said of Naholo's test career to date. "The first test, he broke his leg, and we probably brought him back a wee bit too soon for the World Cup, hoping that it was right. So he didn't get a lot of opportunities over there but he's a special player when he's right and he's trained well, so looking forward to him going out and playing 80 minutes."

Stats out wide

Julian Savea
Height: 1.92m
Weight: 108kg
Age: 25
Caps: 41
Tries: 38

Waisake Naholo
Height: 1.86m
Weight: 100kg
Age: 25
Caps: 3
Tries: 1

- NZ Herald

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