WELLINGTON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - All Blacks loose forward Ardie Savea has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby until 2021 after turning his back on a lucrative move to Europe.
New Zealand media had reported that Savea had agreed in principle to join French club Pau after next year’s Rugby World Cup but the 25-year-old Wellington Hurricanes backrower has had a rethink.
“Truly blessed to have re-signed with NZ for 2020-2021,” Savea said on his Instagram page on Wednesday.
“To be honest was a very tough decision but being at home with family and close friends and the opportunity to play for @allblacks @hurricanesrugby @wgtn_rugby I couldn’t leave.”
Savea made his debut for the All Blacks in 2016 and has spent much of his international career as a backup to openside flanker Sam Cane.
Injuries to other All Blacks forwards gave him the chance to start seven tests this season, however, and he made the most of his moment in the spotlight.
He was arguably New Zealand’s best player in tests against Argentina and South Africa during the Rugby Championship, earning plaudits from the national team’s coaches.
Cane broke a bone in his neck during the 32-30 victory over the Springboks in Pretoria in early October.
While he is expected to make a full recovery, the seriousness of the injury undoubtedly changed All Blacks coach Steve Hansen’s thinking on the composition of his squad for next year’s World Cup defence.
The new contract with NZR ends a potential Savea family reunion in France’s Top 14.
Savea’s older brother Julian was granted early release from his NZR contract this year after being dropped by the All Blacks and joined Toulon.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney