Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Chance for Ardie Savea to replace McCaw

Ardie Savea is a special talent who should be an All Black if he continues to develop. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Ardie Savea is a special talent who should be an All Black if he continues to develop. Photo / Mark Mitchell

These are heady PM days in sport. I'm not meaning the Prime Minister who is talking up tourism and swinging his way through The Hills in Queenstown.

These are the post-McCaw days in a loose sense.

The remarkable flanker who has been such a star for the Crusaders and All Blacks was spotted recently in the crowd at the David Letterman Studios in New York.

McCaw is on his sabbatical, taking time out from the game he has adorned at the highest levels for more than a decade. He intends to return in the middle of the year and resume his sporting career. But who knows.

He may be swamped by some other interest in his time out, offered a job he can't refuse or struck down by Cupid's arrow.

The rugby warrior needed a break from the mental strains of his work and this interval will revive his battered frame. Any change helps, as former Wallaby flanker George Smith showed this week when he returned to the Brumbies and perhaps a repeat tilt at the Lions after several years north of the equator.

But in McCaw's absence we can think about what happens if he does not come back, what if his form dips?

The majority of the rugby-watching population will scoff and the All Black selectors will hold similar thoughts.

Not so long ago they might have felt the same way about centre.

But Richard Kahui's decision to leave, the injury to Tamati Ellison, questions about Conrad Smith's durability and rumours about Rene Ranger's exit, have opened up all sorts of conjecture.

The famous black No7 jersey could be the same.

Leading the contenders for the tests against France in June is Sam Cane, who has deputised five times since his selection last season.

Matt Todd and Luke Braid, who went around last night at Eden Park, have been on the edge of national inclusion while there have been others pushing the value and work rate of John Hardie or Karl Lowe.

But it might be another teenage rooster who provokes most inspection from the national panel.

Ardie Savea is cooling his flashing heels because of a high tackle ban.

But when he makes his Super 15 debut, he could emulate elder brother Julian in black.

Savea the younger captained the New Zealand secondary school side, was head boy at Rongotai College and was a standout on the international sevens circuit.

He is a special talent who should be an All Black if he continues to develop.

Savea makes things happen, he has instincts which can't be taught, his game would add another dimension to the All Blacks.

McCaw was nearly 21 when he stepped out for the All Blacks, Cane was even younger but Savea could pip them both.


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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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