Late Change to All Blacks: Todd Out/Savea to Cover Bench

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In the above video, New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen was forced to make a late change to All Blacks selection, with an injury-forced change to his starting XV. With the Bledisloe Cup Test just over one day away, Matt Todd has been replaced by Ardie Savea.

Hansen, speaking to media after the All Blacks captains run, was brief in his assessment of the reasons why. “It’s a training injury for Matty” which was not realized until late in the day.

The explanation was ‘a training incident’ and in a sport like Rugby Union, these things occur. To be late in the week is again not uncommon, but an unwanted distraction for management, player and team mates.

Late Change to All Blacks: Todd Out/Savea to Cover Bench

It clears the way for Ardie Savea though, to assume his place in the squad for this weekend’s Test match in Brisbane. And it will allow the Hurricanes flanker to perform in the position he would love to own.

“He’ll probably be angry, as he’d have wanted to be selected,” is the declaration by Hansen on his flanker’s attitude. Still sorry for his mate Todd, but hissing to take the opportunity.

“He’ll come out wanting to prove a point.”

Rugby is a game where injury can halt your role, and sometimes worse. Being a groin injury, the severity may need to be assessed when back in Auckland. It also comes very close to the four week Northern hemisphere tour, so precaution is the best medicine.

Todd Deserved His Place, but Savea is the Best Replacement

The selectors have shown the style of play they prefer, with a physicality in the breakdown. It seems clear they want a rugged player, while in the number six jersey, that flanker can be the fetcher. The runner; Liam Squire and Vaea Fifita preferred over Jerome Kaino. Now with Todd removed, the role needs to fit the player.

Ardie Savea is a human Hurricane, and does more around the ground, so it is where Todd excelled in core duties which, Savea now, has to assume. So, can he change?

Most fans of his will say yes. The head coach qualifying this by saying that ” we want him to be stronger over the ball”. That is blunt. Just like Hansen, he says what he means. And he means for Savea to ‘do the tough stuff primarily’.

Savea is still only 24. His game can; and must, evolve to suit the team’s needs. Individually, he can play at times a little wider–but must produce a standard at Suncorp Stadium that reflects the team.

Any late change to All Blacks line-ups is a disruption. Treated professionally–as an organisation like the All Blacks will do–should not affect the result. But, change this late isn’t natural. Kieran Read will know it, Steve Hansen will know it, and Ardie Savea will know it.

How Savea adapts, how the side gels, will go a long way to adding a third Bledisloe Cup game to their winning ledger in 2017.