Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Julian Savea back to full speed

All Blacks wing Julian Savea slips the tackle of Argentina midfielder Juan Martin Hernandez. Photo / Jason Oxenham
All Blacks wing Julian Savea slips the tackle of Argentina midfielder Juan Martin Hernandez. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The body is right and now so is the mind. Julian Savea, nicknamed The Bus, is back up to full speed, scoring his 42nd try in 46 tests and scattering defenders like road cones.

He was easily the All Blacks' best attacking weapon in the first half of their 57-22 victory over Argentina at Waikato Stadium on Saturday; scoring the try after 11 minutes which put them back on level terms. His power and strength were just what his side needed to start breaking down a Pumas team determined to fight fire with fire.

"[On Saturday night], you saw a bit of an example of his physicality," fullback and vice-captain Ben Smith said. "He can be pretty lethal when he's in that type of mood."

Asked if there was a tougher player to tackle when in form, Smith said: "No. It's not something you really want to see, the line being broken and Jules coming right at you. He's someone who is definitely tough to tackle."

Coach Steve Hansen said in reflecting on this test victory, the All Blacks' 14th in a row, that there really isn't that much of a gap between his team and the rest of the world - in particular South Africa and Australia. It's just that the All Blacks know how they want to play, have the players and skills to do it, and prepare accordingly.

The same goes for Savea, the blockbusting Hurricanes wing who has been in the right frame physically for some time, but not quite there mentally.

He has been slightly off, but not by much, and that appears to have changed recently.He scored a try as a replacement against the Wallabies in Sydney, one as a starting wing against them in Wellington a week later, and turned up the volume even further against the Pumas.

Afterwards, he appeared quietly satisfied but in no mood to get ahead of himself.

"You guys [media] can be the judges about whether I'm back to my best but, for me, it's about playing rugby," he said. "I'm enjoying it and playing with a clear mind, really, not caring about making mistakes.

"That's the mindset I've gone through over the last few weeks. Obviously at the beginning of the year I didn't turn up in the right nick. But I'm really training hard and I've had a good support team around me."

Assistant coach Ian Foster said: "He'll be really pleased with that game. He's upping his workrate and taking advantage of the fact that he's really fit and the small skillsets are starting to come back."

Foster will also be pleased about the form of first-five Beauden Barrett, second-five Ryan Crotty, virtually flawless on his return from injury, and that of fullback Smith.

Barrett and Smith, in particular, are forming a spectacular attacking partnership.

"We put a lot of work into our structures," Smith said. "The way we play allows us to get into those positions where we read what the defence is doing and go from there."

- NZ Herald

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