Rugby World Cup: NZ great, commentator Jeff Wilson makes sensational call for All Blacks to bench Ardie Savea

Former All Blacks winger Jeff Wilson has made a bombshell suggestion to axe Ardie Savea as a starting No.8 in the search for a more physical loose forward trio.

Since the retirement of Kieran Read after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Savea, 29, has been one of the only constants in the small successes enjoyed by the All Blacks under Ian Foster.

Despite his perceived lack of size, Savea's performances at the back of the scrum have made him undroppable in the black jersey, earning him All Blacks Player of the Year awards the last two seasons.

With the All Blacks to face France in the Rugby World Cup opener, and likely either South Africa or Ireland in the quarter-final, Wilson believes Savea's relatively small stature could be detrimental.

As far as the No.8s for those nations go, Savea is outgunned by his main competitors.

Standing at 1.88m (6ft 2in) and weighing 102kg, Savea is smaller than Ireland's Caelan Doris (1,93m, 106kg), France's Gregory Alldritt (1.91m, 115kg) and South Africa's Jasper Wiese (1.91m, 110kg).

Player-turned-commentator Wilson believes Chiefs forward Luke Jacobson (1.91m, 107kg) should be New Zealand's go-to at the back of the scrum. 

"I'm going to throw it in right now, I'm changing our No.8," Wilson told Sky Sport's The Breakdown. "I'm actually changing the make-up of our bench, I believe that's how we'll win the World Cup.

"Around the world, the globe and how the game's being played, the nature of the physicality of you need - if you want to be a defensive dominant team - your loose forwards have to be big men.

Ardie Savea against Argentina.
Ardie Savea against Argentina. Photo credit: Photosport

"We moved Ardie Savea to No.8 because we didn't have a solution in that position. [We need] specialists in specialist positions for me.

"I'm looking at a guy like Luke Jacobson… his consistency, his size, his ability to hit - I'm looking at a change.

"I'm looking at a change. I want impact from the bench and it's Ardie Savea for me."

Wilson says Savea's most valuable role would be off the bench, supporting a loose forward trio of Jacobson, captain Sam Cane and Shannon Frizell.

The All Blacks aren't strangers to making the most of players in impact roles during World Cups - most notably Sonny Bill Williams in 2015. Should Wilson have his wish, Savea would be an ideal contender to do the exact same come France later this year.

"Ardie is a remarkable athlete," said Wilson. "He plays full-on for 80 minutes, [but] the last 30 minutes is where we'll win test matches.

"His impact off the bench will be greater than his first 60 minutes starting, I honestly believe that.

Ardie Savea for the Hurricanes.
Ardie Savea for the Hurricanes. Photo credit: Getty Images

"For 10, 15, 20 minutes, if you ask him to replace Sam Cane - absolutely. I have no issue with him in the No.7 position or at No.8, depending on what you're needing.

"He's [also] played No.6 for the All Blacks, but for pure size, I'm looking on both sides of the ball. I'm looking at what France have, what Ireland have - it is size."

Despite being the All Blacks' first-choice No.8, Savea played at No.7 for the end of the Super Rugby season with the Hurricanes, as Brayden Iose's form allowed the captain to shift to the side of the scrum. 

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