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Rugby under-20s take on a totally new frontier

Nov 25th, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News, Sport

Savea (centre) paddling down the Tongariro River

NO COMFORT: Savea (centre) paddling down the Tongariro River.

SLEEPING alone under the stars was not what Julian Savea expected at rugby camp.

Savea (right) and teammates Willy Ione and Mike Kainga act as anchors on the high ropes course.

Savea (right) and teammates Willy Ione and Mike Kainga act as anchors on the high ropes course.

As part of a NZ under-20s development squad, Savea has been at the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre in the central North Island for a week of grueling challenges.

Completing a high ropes course, traversing a rock wall on Ruapehu before abseiling 15 metres, rafting the Tongariro River on tyre tubes, and orienteering through native bush are a sample of the team-building exercises Wellingtonian Savea completed.

Savea was among 45 players competing for places in the NZRU under 20s World Cup squad.

Performing on the field is easier for the self-professed city boy, who recently moved from Strathmore to Berhampore.

The nature-based activities were a novelty for Savea – not always in a good way: “It’s out of my comfort zone this place.”

This did not prevent him from completing all the daunting tasks required, including spending a night alone in the Tongiriro National Park.

This is the first of several training camps Savea must attend before he finds out if he will represent the country – again – but in a slightly different code.

Nineteen-year-old Savea was selected to represent New Zealand in sevens in November last year.

A wet Savea from crawling 8 metres through a narrow underground drain.

A wet Savea from crawling 8m through a narrow underground drain.

Since leaving Rongotai College last year,he has spent much of 2009 playing sevens on the national team in places like Asia, Europe, Dubai and South Africa.

Savea forfeited his sevens contract to contend for a place on the 15-a-side team to tour Argentina next year.

Savea: “I had to decide between this and sevens, but the thing is, 15s gives you a better launch than 7s.”

He says losing his one-year contract was the sacrifice he had to make to have the opportunity to become an All Black.

Playing for a national team has not affected the modesty of Savea, who says money is a bonus but not the motivating factor to playing for his country. “You have to love the game to play.”

The squad will meet in Palmerston North on Sunday to undergo a week of further trials – on the more familiar territory of a rugby field.
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is a Whitireia Journalism student.
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