Unearthing new talent is one of the great pleasures Steve Hansen has in his All Black job and one of his great responsibilities.

Once a rookie like loose-forward Dalton Papalii is recognised for his ability and long-term potential, the coaching staff map out plans to get the best out of their investment.

Usually that means training and instruction rather than playing minutes which frustrates fans eager to see how the talent measures up on the field.

Those inquiries have followed Ardie Savea since he was chosen as an "apprentice" on the 2013 tour to Japan and Europe and then graduated three years later as a full squad member and understudy to Sam Cane.


Once again on an All Black trip to Japan and Europe, Savea has the chance to confirm his pedigree as a first choice loose-forward after the serious injury to Cane and Matt Todd's initial decision to take a sabbatical.

It's been a spluttering time in black for Savea. He's picked up 31 caps and been used across all three back row roles but has never made a sustained statement about his value in one position. His exceptional versatility has helped his minutes and muddied perceptions about his best position.

What is clear is that Savea is settling more into the rhythm of test rugby.

He was into everything as openside against the Pumas in Nelson and with the late illness withdrawal of Luke Whitelock, gave a similar performance from No 8 against the Pumas in Buenos Aires, then, from openside when Sam Cane hurt his neck against the Springboks in Pretoria.

Savea has bulked up, has more experience and is showing the benefits of the progression mapped out by Hansen and his staff when they promoted him to full All Black colours in 2016.

That selection came with a caution from Hansen that Savea's best would come in a few years when he'd finished his physical development and would be able to sustain his form for a longer run of games — something we have seen this season in the Rugby Championship. After a brief spell Savea will be asked for more of the same in Japan and Europe.

His talent is up with the best where his power and athletic gifts help him create and deliver some remarkable play. The questions are how often his form is on a repeat cycle and in the back of his mind, Savea can hear Hansen imploring him to ''do it again'' because good players repeat their work more than others.

That trend has been stronger this season from Savea even with the issues of coming off the bench or juggling the different loose-forward starting needs.


That form line will have to hold in Yokohama tomorrow when he and the All Blacks come up against the marauding David Pocock and Michael Hooper as the Wallabies search for some redemption in a season of struggling results.

The All Blacks have pitched this test as a taste of what they need to achieve a year from now as they search for a further World Cup crown and for all those who take the field it's a precious chance to demand a return trip and starting role in the ninth global rugby festival.