Improving on where they finished off in the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship is still the goal of an All Blacks team restored to near full strength for their Test against Wales on Sunday (NZT) at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Loose forward Ardie Savea, who along with Beauden Barrett is a vice-captain to lock Sam Whitelock, who has taken over in the absence of Sam Cane, said next year’s Rugby World Cup was not on his mind, and on this tour, they were looking to make a statement in Europe, and perform well in their Tests.
“After the year we’ve had, we want to stamp the foot down and be able to put in consistent performances and be proud of that.
“We take a lot of confidence out of the back end of the Rugby Championship. We don’t want to take a step backwards and start over again. We want to start where we finished off in the Championship.
“We got the win in Japan, but this is a new week and today was a new day. For us, it’s just about tightening the screws and what we need to do to get a quality performance.
“Playing here is bloody hard and tough – the atmosphere, the Welsh side, what happened last year.
“We know they’ll be bottling that all up and wanting to come and smack us, so for us it’s about building that knot in the gut through the week so we come and we’re ready.”
Savea said the disruption of losing players before departing for Japan was not too unsettling as they had become used to things chopping and changing over the last few years.
“We’re adapting and adjusting quite frequently,” he said, adding that it was good to have the affected players and new call-up Billy Harmon coming into the side.
While not involved in the Japan Test, Savea said many people underestimated how good the Japan side was, although after getting out to a good lead, it was frustrating to let them back into the game.
“This week the focus is about being on for the full 80 [minutes] and not having moments like that to let teams back in.”
The need to problem solve quickly on the field remained a requirement for individuals and collectively.
Wales had great carriers, attacking flair and a very fit squad. Having seen the All Blacks leak 31 points to Japan, they could choose to hit them in a similar fashion.
Savea’s Hurricanes teammate Jordie Barrett had not surprised him when stepping up to play second five-eighths at the end of the Championship.
“That guy can play anywhere. If he wanted to play lock or loosie he would probably do well too.
“It wasn’t a surprise to me that he did so well. He’s been in the game since he was very young, and we’re finally seeing a mature Jordie Barrett knowing who he is as a footy player and as a man. It’s awesome to see.
“To see where he is now, and the potential he still has, it’s scary but it is exciting. I’m glad to be on his team.”
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Key All Black announces sabbatical to play in Japan
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will take up a sabbatical option in his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) contract in 2024 to play a season for Suntory in Japan League One.
The 31-year-old, 95-Test loose forward will miss the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection to the All Blacks for the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship campaign.
Cane, who is contracted to NZR through to the end of 2025, said he was looking forward to experiencing a new playing environment with Suntory and learning more about a new culture in Japan.
“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey. I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said:
“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan. There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said:
“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different. He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”
Key All Black commits to Gallagher Chiefs until 2025
Dominant loose forward Luke Jacobson has extended his contract with the Gallagher Chiefs, Waikato and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2025.
The 18-test All Black was a consistent starter for the Gallagher Chiefs this year and a key element of their outstanding DHL Super Rugby Pacific performances. He consequently went on to be named in the All Blacks squad to travel to France.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have Jacobson sticking around for another two seasons.
“Luke is an outstanding player; he’s a workhorse, a consistent performer and considered a real warrior within our group. Luke leads by example both on and off the field. He isnt one to waste words and prefers to let his actions speak for themself. In the absence of some senior players who have moved on, I have no doubt Luke will play an integral part providing the leadership and guidance our younger players will be looking for”.
Jacobson has impressed throughout his career, playing for the New Zealand U20s team twice and captaining them in his second season to win the 2017 U20 World Championship title. This aptitude for leadership has seen him pull on the Gallagher Chiefs captain’s armband on multiple occasions.
Waikato Rugby head coach Ross Filipo is excited about Luke extending his career with Waikato. “He is a great man and a great leader who continues to make huge contributions on and off the field and always represents the region with pride.”
Speaking on his signing Jacobson said: “I’m stoked to signing on with the Waikato, Chiefs and NZR for another two years. I love representing these teams and am very proud to be able to call myself a Waikato/Chiefs man and also and All black. I’m hungry to succeed with these teams and tick off a few unticked boxes.”
The 2024 Gallagher Chiefs squad will be named later this year ahead of assembling for pre-season training.