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Savea to liven up Bledisloe for bench

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/10/2016 Angelo Risso

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen will look to hotshot Ardie Savea as his bundle of energy off the bench in Saturday's third Bledisloe.

Savea, 23, made a pair of Test starts as his side thumped South Africa and Argentina in the Rugby Championship but has since lost the No.7 shirt to Matt Todd.

The pair have been vying for the openside role as incumbent Sam Cane slowly recovers from a hamstring injury.

Crusaders gun Todd started at openside against the Springboks a fortnight ago, playing 55 minutes as the Kiwis thrashed their traditional foes 57-15.

Savea then entered the fray in Todd's place as his side ran in five tries in the last 25 minutes in Durban.

Hansen told reporters the Hurricanes ace was capable of taking the All Blacks to another level from the bench, and better suited to an interchange role.

Todd's defensive nous would serve the side well earlier in the game.

"Starting with Matt allows us to use Ardie off the bench in a way that's probably going to be more beneficial to the team," Hansen said.

"Both are good starters but Ardie is better at finishing it."

Savea took the Super Rugby competition by storm in 2016, making 17 appearances and 20 line breaks as his side stormed to the title.

Hansen acknowledged Savea would, at some point in the future, start to put real pressure on more senior players for the starting jersey.

But he first needed more professional rugby experience and extra muscle for work in the breakdown.

"He's learning to be an All Black and he's learning to play at this level for 80 minutes with the physicality we need," Hansen said.

With the side's tour of the United States and Europe barely a week away, Hansen elected to preserve Cane as he inches back to full fitness.

The Chiefs co-captain will make his competitive return for provincial outfit Bay of Plenty in this weekend's semi-final against Otago.

"He's fit to play, but is he fit to play a Test? Probably not," Hansen said.

"There's enough depth in the squad to say, go and have a game down there and we'll use these two guys."

Cane, for his part, told reporters on Tuesday he was running freely and almost back to full fitness after a six-week lay-off.

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