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In-shape Savea gives Hurricanes a boost

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/01/2017 Daniel Gilhooly

Hurricanes Chris Boyd did a double-take when Julian Savea strolled into his office last week.

It was a pleasant surprise.

The All Blacks winger looked a shadow of the unfit figure who fronted for the 2016 Super Rugby campaign.

Boyd says it is obvious Savea steered clear of Christmas pudding and other temptations in the off-season.

"The first thing I said to him was 'Mate, you're a different person," Boyd said.

"He's certainly physically very different than he was this time last year.

"I think in himself, he's much more chipper as well."

Savea was clearly out of shape for the opening weeks of last year's championship-winning campaign.

He improved, but tailed off again and dropped out of favour on the All Blacks left wing for a period.

Boyd and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen alluded to Savea not being mentally on song for some of 2016.

It seems that won't be an issue for the 26-year-old known as "The Bus" whose 45 tries from 52 Tests has him four short of Doug Howlett's all-time New Zealand Test record.

"I know that he wasn't happy with the way the season started or finished for us last year," Boyd said.

"He just wants to play good code. Part of that is that he realises he needs to be in good physical nick to play good footy."

Most first-choice All Blacks return to their franchises to resume light training next week.

Savea and the other Test players in the Hurricanes will be relieved to have missed the team's latest fitness innovation.

Boyd says the players have hated a three-week burst of cycling in altitude chambers at Wellington Hospital.

"Many of them say it's the hardest thing they've ever done," Boyd smiled.

"They say it's like breathing through a sock."

Boyd's other idea to break up the monotony was to have his players complete a decathlon.

However, that got the thumbs down from medical staff, who told him rugby players aren't built to safely complete disciplines such as high jump and pole vault.

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