All Blacks star Savea reveals injury struggles
INJURY UPDATE: Ardie Savea has revealed an internal struggle during the early stages of rehabbing a serious knee injury.
It was never a do-or-die scenario for the 27-year-old, just a patient one.
Training again and running around the paddock with his teammates has refreshed Savea, who says the long journey toward being fit and available for the All Blacks saw him discover a renewed passion for the basics in rugby.
“I just found the passion in the little things,” Savea told media on Thursday shortly after being named to start at openside flank against Fiji.
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It will be the first appearance for the blockbusting loose-forward in the black jersey this year after a battle with a serious MCL injury sustained during the Hurricanes’ ill-fated Super Rugby campaigns.
It will also be Savea’s 50th test for the All Blacks but getting through the rehabilitation was a battle at the start, Savea revealed, as he initially tried to rush for a return.
“I’ve been battling a little bit,” Savea admitted. “I was trying to rush it a little bit personally with myself so it’s been about trusting the process with the medical staff.
“Honestly it’s nice to put on the black jersey again because it’s always special so I’m just grateful to be named and be able to run out there.”
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During a week where much of the talk has been about the All Blacks’ breakdown ability and their back-and-forth contest with Fiji, the return of the physical specimen that is Savea is sure to give some confidence of a better performance in the trenches.
Focus for the men in black will be on the ball carrier, and as one of the most explosive in the game, Savea says the challenge ahead is a good one for the collective.
“It’s good for us because we are a physical team but pretty much their whole team is pretty powerful and strong. They’ve got players that know how to jackal and go over the ball while staying extremely low so for us it’s about our ball carriers doing the job and our cleaners getting in there to stop them getting penalties and turnovers.”
Front of mind for Savea, through some 49 appearances at test level, is the awareness that teams tend to grow a second leg when coming up against the All Blacks.
“I relish every test match because every team gets up when they play the All Blacks so it’s a great challenge for us as a team to keep that consistency going and putting out great performances.”
Alongside Savea in reaching the half-century marker will be his good friend Anton Lienert-Brown who himself returns after a stint on the sidelines.
A niggly elbow was always on the cards to get operated on at some point in time, but when it began to impact on training, the 26-year-old was persuaded to get the procedure done.
“There’s probably been something going on for about a year but I managed to play through it,” Lienert-Brown revealed. “Then during the back end of [Super Rugby] Trans-Tasman it got too niggly and while I could still play, it was hindering my training so it was one of those things that probably needed to be done at some stage.”
Lienert-Brown’s experience in the midfield will be a boost, as well as his physicality in what is a reasonably small backline for the second Fijian encounter.
“Within the midfielders there’s a huge amount of talent and a huge amount of knowledge so it’s about me leading those conversations and using all my knowledge to ensure we get to where we need to get to.”
“I guess at the moment we’ve changed it up quite a bit but that’s not a bad thing because finding that right combination is important.”