Rugby World Cup: Ardie Savea relishes another chance to lead All Blacks as Australia await

Backed as the man to lead the All Blacks in Saturday's Bledisloe Cup opener against the Wallabies, leading his country is something that will never get old for Ardie Savea.

On Saturday, Savea will lead the All Blacks for the fifth time, deputising for Sam Cane, who has been rested as a precautionary measure after a neck injury suffered against South Africa.  

Leading the All Blacks is nothing new for Savea, who filled in for Cane in 2021 to win both the Rugby Championship and the Freedom Cup against South Africa.

Ardie Savea.
Ardie Savea. Photo credit: Getty Images

And with another opportunity to do the same at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground - with more than 85,000 expected in attendance - leading his country is the icing on the cake for the 29-year-old. 

"It's pretty special," Savea said. "I've done it before, not at the MCG, but led this team.

"I'm just really grateful. It's always a blessing to be in this position. I never take it for granted.

"This week, I've woken up every morning grateful just to be able to wake up and be in the position I am."

But if there wasn't enough pressure on his shoulders already, Saturday's clash sees the All Blacks again put the Bledisloe Cup on the line.

New Zealand has held the trophy since 2003, in a run that will only fuel Australia's desire to win it back this year.

But for Savea, that pressure is being harnessed for him and his side this week, determined to keep the cup in Kiwi hands for another year. 

Ardie Savea.
Ardie Savea. Photo credit: Getty Images

"The Bled means so much, not only to the All Blacks, but to all of New Zealand," he continued.

"A lot's on the line. We know that, we feel that, we harness that.

"We use that fuel and energy in our prep this week - and hopefully on Saturday."

The Wallabies, though, have an ace up their sleeve.

As the last man to coach the Wallabies to a Bledisloe Cup victory - now 21 years ago - Eddie Jones has been reinstated to lead Australia in 2023.

On more than one occasion, Jones has masterminded an All Blacks downfall.

In 2019, he helmed the England side that ended New Zealand's quest for a third straight Rugby World Cup, and last year saw the same outfit come back from 25-6 down to draw at Twickenham.

Jones has already played his part in building up Saturday's encounter, stating the New Zealand economy will tank should the Wallabies earn a shock victory.

But for the All Blacks, while Jones' tactics and coaching style opens the door for said upset, Savea has done his part during the week to make sure his troops are ready for anything. 

"As drivers, as leaders, we have that in the back of our mind. We know they're going to come out firing.

"We know they can throw something we haven't seen before. The great challenge for us is having to adapt fast in the game.

"That's something that kind of is in the background, but we're more focussed on ourselves and nailing our stuff."