Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Let Cane and Ardie face Lions in tandem

Ardie Savea and Sam Cane. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ardie Savea and Sam Cane. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Ardie Savea is playing the sort of consistent high-quality rugby to start with Sam Cane as a twin-pronged All Black loose-forward combination against the touring Lions.

In a like-for-like scenario if blindside flanker Jerome Kaino recovers from knee surgery stalls, Liam Squire, Steven Luatua, Elliot Dixon and Liam Messam will be favoured for the role because of their All Black experience while Vaea Fifita, Akira Ioane, Jordan Taufua and Brad Shields could push into the frame with strong performances in the next month of Super Rugby.

That would be a standard move from the national selectors but they have never been content to stay with the status quo.

They are always looking for points of difference as they showed when they took Jordie Barrett as an "apprentice" on tour to Europe last year.

In 2013, the All Blacks invested in Savea as their developing player in Japan then Europe.

He has played a dozen tests now, starting twice on the openside and has been in rampaging form this season in all loose forward roles for the Hurricanes.

Savea brings a lot of everything to his play and that avant garde style could be just the thing to unsettle the Lions.

The 23-year-old has an engine which appears to run on the same revs as the mighty Richie McCaw with no let-up from the first whistle to the last. Running through Savea's talents provides a list where there always seems to be more.

He scavenges with the best and his ferocity over the ball has been a conspicuous part in the Hurricanes' armoury. His instincts, ball skills and his pace take him to places others miss out on. Switch him to defence mode and he skittles rivals with a mix of timing and power.

Ask him to guard the tight lanes, jump in the lineout, push the niggling envelope or make play and Savea completes those tasks with an extra dollop of panache.

He's 190cm and about 110kg, which gives him the size and authority to enforce rather than bend.

The All Blacks want to play an up-tempo style and a loose trio of Kieran Read, Savea and Cane would balance those targets and force the Lions into unfamiliar patterns away from their smash and destroy ethos.

- Herald on Sunday

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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