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Savea still in frame despite Ioane showing

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/06/2017 Angelo Risso
Julian Savea of New Zealand © AAP Images Julian Savea of New Zealand

Much like the All Blacks' midfield pairing and loose forward trio, it appears coach Steve Hansen's back-three choice for Test matches has become a horses-for-courses proposition.

Despite Julian Savea's near-permanent spot on the All Blacks' left edge since 2012, he was overlooked for the first British and Irish Lions Test on Saturday.

In his place stood Rieko Ioane, chosen specifically by Hansen for his blistering pace - correctly in hindsight, given his two tries in a 30-15 win.

The 20-year-old Ioane's strong performance has forced some to question the Test future of the rampaging Savea, who has 46 tries in 53 matches and is the closest thing the All Blacks have found to a second Jonah Lomu.

Hansen insisted that was an especially short-sighted view, given the 26-year-old's youth and finishing pedigree, and that "The Bus" was nowhere near finished.

It was simply a case of needing Ioane's pace more than Savea's power on Saturday to combat the Lions' rapid defensive line speed.

The case was the same for fellow winger Waisake Naholo.

"Here's a guy who's on 46 tries and been an outstanding player, in great physical nick, but we decided to go in a different direction because we wanted Rieko's pace and we got rewarded for that," Hansen said.

"It comes down to what combinations we want, but we wouldn't be frightened of putting him in the (starting) XV.

"It's not that we don't know he's a good rugby player."

Given his omission from Saturday's side, Savea will head back to Wellington to play for the Hurricanes against the mid-week Lions on Tuesday - indicating he'll also miss selection for next weekend's second Test.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said Savea would have plenty to prove in the Cake Tin, along with fellow Test ring-ins Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape and Vaea Fifita.

Hansen tended to agree, and encouraged Savea to embrace the chance to play the tourists and remind everyone of his abilities.

"Every time you play is an opportunity to say, hey, look at me," Hansen said.

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