Ardie Savea has revealed he wants to play in the NRL and would consider a switch to the 13-man game as soon as next year. Savea, among the All Blacks’ best, is contracted to New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2021.
With the 26-year-old having played 44 Tests for New Zealand since his debut in 2016, he would almost certainly spark a bidding frenzy among NRL clubs. The loose forward would likely fit the mould of a second-rower in the NRL and will be the biggest name convert from union to the NRL since Sonny Bill Williams in 2013.
Currently sidelined with a knee injury, the Hurricanes star said he was inspired to make the switch after playing alongside Williams for New Zealand. “100% [I want to play rugby league],” Savea told the Ice Project podcast with former Kiwis half Isaac John.
“I just think they [the players] do a lot more in terms of off the field stuff than New Zealand. And also, just a new challenge. I want to test myself. Learning a whole new game and seeing if I can dominate or play the way I play in union and if I can do that in league. That excites me.
“Seeing guys like Sonny do it and the way that has benefited him. It kind of plays on my mind a bit. It sucks that I got this injury because I was low key thinking about it [switching to league] for next year.”
A dynamic and powerful runner, Savea has played rugby sevens and also possesses speed that would make him a threat on the edge for any team. He also played outside centre as a junior, meaning he could be used in the backline.
The Wellington junior said he would have his eyes on playing for Melbourne or Sydney Roosters if he joined the NRL in pursuit of success. “Strategically I would want to go to a team that was good or dominating, like the Melbourne Storm or the Roosters,” he said.
The possible future interest would come as a gift to both teams, who have dealt with the losses Will Chambers and Latrell Mitchell over the off-season. The Roosters also had success in 2013 with Williams, but he had played five years in the NRL with Canterbury between 2004 and 2008.