Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Are we being too hard on Julian Savea?

Wooden performance alerted Hansen that it was time for wing to take a breather.

While he's a little lost, there is a road map for Julian Savea to follow which could put him back in a black jersey as early as next week.

Savea has been given a clear message by the All Blacks coaches that he remains a big part of their thinking and that he hasn't been abandoned.

No one is viewing his lack of form and confidence - despite both having endured for a prolonged period - as terminal.

The big wing can be fixed and Hansen has made one of his intuitive calls on how to do it. He's decided that they have to take a step back this week with Savea if they are to start taking steps forward.

Hansen has a natural feel for where players are at. He's got a knack for picking the right management strategy to return strugglers to their best form.

It may appear as if Savea has been given the stick rather than the carrot by being left out of the starting team for the second test against Wales after a disappointing effort in the first.

Leaving Savea out, though, is not a decision that was made to rekindle any missing desire. Hansen is content that Savea is desperate to play for the All Blacks.

The coaches like Savea's attitude and are convinced that he's been working hard on all the right things. This is not the proverbial kick up the butt.

The concern is that after a mediocre Super Rugby campaign in which he hasn't fired, Savea is over eager to prove himself and almost inflicting himself with a case of paralysis by analysis.

"When someone is bogged down they are usually a bit clunky and they are stuck," says Hansen.

"You don't see them doing much and when you see them training really well and then you see them go and have a performance that is clunky and pretty wooden, you can usually tell, without having to be a psychologist, that there is something going on. And that is the case with Julian.

"If you go back through the game - Waisake [Naholo] had 17 touches and Jules had four. He just wasn't Julian so we feel it's a good time to say, 'come out of it son, have a breather' and let's get back into it. He's a class player."

The unknown is how long constitutes 'a breather'? How long before Hansen is satisfied that Savea is in a better head space?

Hansen can't say, but the implication is that it won't be that long and the likelihood is that Savea will be considered for selection in Dunedin.

A firm pitch, with a dry ball against a Welsh side that may struggle to live with the pace of the game on an immaculate surface would be the perfect game to return Savea to the No11 jersey.

"His weight is good now, his skinny's [skin fold measurements] are good, his attitude is outstanding but he's just a little bogged down so we just need to freshen him a bit mentally. While it was tempting to play him again - especially on his home patch - he's working on a lot of things and we thought it would be better to let him not play.

"The issue here is that he's probably trying too hard to the point where he's over-thinking things and when you over-think things you end up being a bit of a robot and that's not what we want," says Hansen.

"We want the instinctive Jules because when he's like that he hurts people. He'll get another opportunity."

- NZ Herald

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