Wynne Gray on sport
Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Squeeze on Julian Savea to get back into shape

The greatest test for the All Blacks is internal, those self-assessments when players and coaches measure up against benchmarks they have set themselves.

Julian Savea is creating problems for all of them as his bumpy form continues.

He's been down this road before. Last year the left wing's form fluctuated in Super Rugby and while he was picked in the All Black squad, he did not play in the opening three tests with Samoa, Argentina and South Africa.

Instead, Savea was put on a conditioning programme under the gaze of the All Black trainers. Whatever they did worked as the wing stormed through the World Cup.

However his fitness fell away after that tournament and he arrived for Super rugby duty well below the levels of Dane Coles, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett.

His form for the Hurricanes has been inconsistent and it added to his woes when he was one of the players suspended for breaking curfew.

Milner-Skudder's injury and Cory Jane's impending departure helped Savea's push for inclusion in the All Black test squad and a start in the opening victory against Wales. He lasted 43 minutes before he was subbed.

"Jules didn't have one of his great games," coach Steve Hansen said.

"There is a lot happening with Jules and we are working away quietly. We all know he has not had a great season and he is trying extremely hard here since he came in and has been great.

"We think taking him out of the pressure of having to play and continuing to keep him working on areas we want him to work on will mean he will benefit from that."

Hansen and his crew have brought Savea back to the boil before however the 25-year-old's confidence and subsequent form dip have not shown consistent signs of correction.

There is a disconnect amid Hansen's revelation that there were a range of issues for the wing.

This is the next level of player management for the coaches and Gilbert Enoka who presides over the players' mental welfare.

Savea has been picked on reputation. That is the prerogative of any coach or selector but the squeeze is coming on now about getting Savea back into total shape and finding the right time for his return.

- NZ Herald

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