Former All Blacks wing and Hurricanes favourite Julian Savea is now living with his family in Auckland and is hoping for a Super Rugby contract.
However, Savea, who will turn 30 next month, has turned down an offer to play for Auckland in the Mitre 10 Cup and is understood to be highly unlikely to play club rugby despite training with Ponsonby recently.
Savea, a powerful finisher who scored 46 tries in 54 tests, has kept an extremely low profile since returning to New Zealand from French club Toulon recently. He announced his departure from the south of France in May, but rather than settle back in his former Wellington home, the Herald can reveal he has moved into a house in the North Shore suburb of Takapuna.
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An injury replacement contract for a Super Rugby Aotearoa franchise appears Savea's most likely next step in the short term, although why he has turned down a place in the Auckland squad and won't play club rugby remains unknown. A source told the Herald that Savea's situation was "complicated".
It is all very different to his former All Blacks teammate Dan Carter, who is preparing to play for his Southbridge club in rural Canterbury tomorrow after returning from Japan and signing as an injury replacement for the Blues.
Carter, 38, now settled in Auckland, is yet to play for Leon MacDonald's team and has been signed more for his knowledge and experience than his pure playing ability.
Carter is nearing the end of his playing career, however, and it may be that Savea envisages playing for a few more years yet and is therefore worried about suffering an injury before he gets a chance to sign a relatively sizeable contract. His agent Warren Alcock did not return calls.
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Savea's brother Ardie, an All Blacks and Hurricanes loose forward, recently turned out for his Oriental-Rongotai club in Wellington. Julian's appearance for Ponsonby, the home of another former All Blacks blockbusting wing Bryan Williams, a man who terrorised defences in the 1970s, would likely boost his teammates and cause dismay among the opposition in equal measure.
"I'm open to anything," Savea told Ardie in an Instagram post after announcing his departure from Toulon. "Ideally, I'd like to be back with the Canes.
"If that doesn't happen, it could be another franchise, it could be Japan, it could be the NZ Warriors."
Savea has admitted he did not have a happy time at Toulon as he suffered under the close scrutiny and often bizarre public utterances of now former owner Mourad Boudjellal, who was disappointed his new signing didn't immediately display the form which lit up the 2015 World Cup in the United Kingdom.
Savea, who also harshly treated by the home fans at times, was dropped but fought his way back into the starting XV and showed glimpses of the destructive running which made him one of the most feared outside backs in the world and got him to second on the All Blacks' top try-scoring list (behind Doug Howlett on 49).
The Highlanders have already ruled out signing Savea as a replacement for 21-year-old wing Sam Gilbert who is out for nine months due to a knee injury suffered in the defeat to the Blues at Eden Park recently.
Savea, a near ever-present in the black No11 jersey from 2012 to 2017, looks relatively fit in training videos that he has posted recently, but how much pure pace and power he still has remains to be seen. In the meantime he is waiting on someone else's misfortune.