Dynamic New Zealand sevens star Ardie Savea has abandoned his Olympic dream, announcing Sunday he wants to focus on trying to establish an All Blacks Test career.
The Wellington Hurricanes loose forward will be challenging Sam Cane for the All Blacks openside flanker role vacated by the now retired Richie McCaw.
Savea was not immediately available for comment after releasing his decision through the New Zealand Rugby (NZR), but national sevens coach Gordon Tietjens said he was “disappointed” at the news.
“There’s little doubt Ardie could’ve been a key player for us in Rio,” Tietjens said.
Savea, a younger brother of All Blacks Test wing Julian Savea, was a member of the New Zealand sevens team that won back-to-back tournaments in Wellington and Sydney earlier this year.
He was among a few Olympic prospects released to play Super rugby but was scheduled to rejoin the sevens squad for the last two rounds of the World Series in Paris and London next month.
“We’re naturally disappointed that we can no longer call on the services of such a great sevens player,” NZR general manager Neil Sorensen said.
“He could well have made a huge impact at Rio as he’s a classy player and he proved that again in Wellington and Sydney. However, we understand his reasons.”
Sam Cane has been moulded by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen to replace McCaw and has also been named as a future Test captain.
Savea, however, is also known to be on the All Blacks radar and in 2013 he was taken on the November northern hemisphere tour as a non-playing “apprentice” with Hansen saying he wanted to introduce the powerful runner “to the way of the All Black life”. – Agence France-Presse