If Ireland had any suspicions the All Blacks might be complacent as World Cup winners, Julian Savea headed the queue proving them wrong.

The visitors' expedition to get parity became a struggle when his 1.92m, 107kg frame touched the ball.

Comparisons can be nasty, especially early in a player's international career, so best to keep references to names like Lomu or Tuigamala out of it for now.

The 21-year-old Wellingtonian made his own imprint, becoming the first All Black to score three tries against Ireland in a test and ensuring his name will be in the All Blacks' frame for this World Cup cycle.


However, the measure of test match success for wingers should not be judged solely on their finishing. Sure, it is a core part of the job description but performances are enhanced if they contribute other skills like running good lines, defending with a stout shoulder and volunteering a willing pair of hands in support.

Savea offered those added extras. His lines, even as a decoy runner, ensured the All Blacks rumbled across the advantage line. The sight of him coming into peripheral view, with or without the ball, seemed to have the Irish backs easing from the balls to the heels of their feet. When he took the ball into contact it wasn't hard to imagine a Batman comic "Kapow!" speech bubble emerging as the kinetic energy flew.

His shoulder would also have had comic appeal if it weren't for the pain it was inflicting. Irish fullback Rob Kearney was an example. He took a dose of "Kaboom!" in the 17th minute, going backwards as quickly as his breath was coming out frontwards.

Savea then drove up and over the ball and the All Blacks earned a penalty when Kearney didn't, perhaps couldn't, release. Such momentum made the Irish scramble.

Savea's support play was rewarded with tries but it was more important that he was simply there. In the 29th minute, he carved through the Irish defence dismissing several weak chest focused tackles.

The finishes to his tries were easy compared to his all-round efforts but planting the ball through a lattice of Irish arms for his second try, three minutes from halftime, earned kudos.

The people behind Savea's debut success can't be forgotten. Assistant coach Ian Foster did a fine job in his first test marshalling the backs. Savea also benefited behind the direction of Daniel Carter, Israel Dagg and Conrad Smith who got him into positions where he could explode at sub-11 second 100m speed. Carter drew Kearney to set up Savea's first try. Dagg passed to him 15m from the line for his second before dancing in a tackle and offloading for his third.

Smith deserves particular plaudits as the experienced centre teaming up with a new partner. His selfless efforts were in the mould of Joe Stanley with John Kirwan or Frank Bunce with Lomu.


Smith's enthusiasm to get to Savea and rub his head after his first try was impressive. A cynic might suggest he knew the cameras would be on him but it seemed more like the unbridled joy of someone who knew a fellow All Black had found his feet.

The 64 minutes he was on the field (before Aaron Cruden replaced him and Sonny Bill Williams moved to the left wing) weren't perfect.

He dropped a kickoff in the 46th minute after his third try. The Irish probably didn't exploit him enough in that capacity, especially in greasy conditions after rain. Still, there are always the second and third tests.