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NZ to avoid repeat of 2013 nail-biter

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/11/2016 Angelo Risso
Ardie Savea © Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images Ardie Savea

New Zealand's last rugby Test against Ireland, admits All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea, was fairly brutal.

Down 19-0 within 18 minutes of their last 2013 match, the world champions looked destined to throw away their chance for an historic undefeated Test season.

Yet in one of the best clashes of the year, the All Blacks rallied with second-half tries to brother Julian, Ben Franks and a last-gasp heartbreaker from Ryan Crotty to level the scores.

First-five Aaron Cruden then nailed the winning conversion from the sideline at the second time of asking for a 24-22 triumph.

Julian Savea and the All Blacks celebrate Aaron Cruden's match winning conversion in Dublin in 2013. © Getty Images Julian Savea and the All Blacks celebrate Aaron Cruden's match winning conversion in Dublin in 2013.

Savea, aged just 20 at the time, was an apprentice on tour with the squad in 2013, learning at the knee of All Blacks legend and fellow openside Richie McCaw.

He could only watch on in exhilaration as the side snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

"We thought there was no chance of coming back there but the boys dug deep and love to play the full 80, and we just took our opportunities," Savea said.

Veteran blindside Jerome Kaino, a fixture in the All Blacks since 2006, was on hiatus with the Test side in 2013 while playing for Japanese club Toyota Verblitz.

He said the match showed how simple rugby skillsets could make the difference in big moments.

"I watched the replay," the 33-year-old Kaino said.

"It was (hooker) Dane Coles who threw an offload and guys just throwing simple passes in front, and you put someone away on the edge."

The two sides will play on Saturday for the first time since that 2013 nail-biter, this time at the neutral Soldier Field in Chicago.

The All Blacks have swept aside all before them in 2016, cruising to the Rugby Championship and a record 18th straight Test win.

Ireland, meanwhile, backed up a third-place Six Nations finish with a 2-1 June series loss to the Springboks in South Africa.

Savea, who will vie with incumbent openside Sam Cane and the in-form Matt Todd for a starting berth, said the key to victory was a strong preparation.

"We just have to worry about ourselves and what we need to bring to the game, to start strong and play a full 80," the 23-year-old said.

Savea produced a barnstorming Super Rugby campaign with the Hurricanes, playing 17 games and making more than 200 tackles as his side claimed a maiden title.

Yet All Blacks selectors have been more hesitant to unleash Savea in the No.7 jumper, giving him just two Rugby Championship starts.

The Wellington-based livewire, who has also nabbed two tries for his country, felt he could improve further by adding more bulk to his 100kg frame.

"It's hard, somehow I eat so much but still stay the same," Savea said.

"I'm just worrying about my role as a No.7, around the breakdown, being stronger over that and with my weight getting bigger, that'll help me physically."

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