Savea must relax to rediscover best rugby

Julian Savea has been told to relax and drink from the same confidence fountain as the likes of All Blacks team-mates Israel Dagg and Beauden Barrett.

The contrast between the high-profile New Zealand backs was glaring during the 46-6 third Test crushing of Wales in Dunedin on Saturday.

While restored winger Savea’s patchy form continues, fullback Dagg and first five-eighth Barrett scaled new heights with their attacking game, tearing effortlessly through the thin red Welsh defensive line.

Savea was dropped for the second Test in Wellington by coach Steve Hansen with the hope it would inspire a response in performance.

However, the powerful No.11’s first act was to spill a straightforward punt. Soon afterwards he lost possession when tackled and found it hard to get into the game from then, despite its open nature.

“For a guy battling his confidence a bit, the worst thing he could do was drop his first catch,” Hansen said.

“But he came through it. He didn’t get many opportunities to really express himself with the ball but he got more involved in the game.”

Hansen said Savea was in prime physical shape and there was no lack of desire to find the form that has harvested 39 tries from 43 Tests.

Hansen reckoned there might be too much desire, calling for some loosening up when he returned to Super Rugby with the Hurricanes this week.

“I just want to see him enjoy himself and get his confidence back.

“You want your athletes to be happy and confident. He’s just going through a bit of a period in his life where he’s not.’

Hansen’s message has seemingly reached Dagg, who credits a more carefree attitude for his brilliant form in Dunedin.

His running game is back near the level reached to usurp Mils Muliaina as first-choice fullback during the 2011 World Cup. Injury and a lack of speed had since dogged him.

“I think I took it too seriously at times. I probably lost the smile on my face,” Dagg said.

“I’ve just gone back to really enjoying it, enjoying the week, enjoying the company of friends and family.”

Barrett’s fluent attack and seven-from-eighth goalkicking return has also been attributed to the coaches’ call to chill.

“I’m a lot more calm in the head and a lot more relaxed physically,” he said.

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