There still seems to be some debate on whether or not a Sevens Rugby gold medal takes precedence over the honour of wearing an All Blacks jersey in the 15-man format of the game.
What is clear, however, is where Hurricanes flanker Savea stands on the issue.
The 22-year-old livewire loose forward was scheduled to return to New Zealand after the Hurricanes’ Super Rugby fixture against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday and prepare for the remaining Sevens World Series events in Paris (May 13-15) and London (May 21-22).
But he blindsided NZR when he announced he would rather stay with the Hurricanes and make a Super Rugby title – and by extension the All Blacks No 7 jersey – his priority.
“There’s no doubt about it, we’re really disappointed,” Neil Sorensen, NZR general manager rugby, told reporters.
“Ardie Savea is a really good person, highly rated both on and off the field. But we are really disappointed in the fact that he’s pulled the pin so late. We respect that, but were not happy about it.”
Following suggestions that the All Blacks may have had a hand in Savea’s about-turn, NZR chief executive Steve Tew came out and batted away speculation.
“It’s incorrect and unfair to say the All Blacks themselves have impacted this decision when I know for a fact there has been no direct contact from the All Black coaches or selectors with Ardie Savea,” said Tew.
Blues players Rieko and Akira Ioane have confirmed their return to Sevens for the Paris and London tournaments, linking up with fellow Super Rugby players Liam Messam, Sonny Bill Williams and Augustine Pulu in the squad.
But other high-profile players who have reportedly turned down invitations from New Zealand Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens include the likes of Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett and Kieran Read.
An indication perhaps that New Zealand’s top players aren’t completely on board with the prospect of playing Sevens at the Rio Olympics.
Even Sorensen’s stance on the issue seems unclear, having previously stated that NZR doesn’t want any Super Rugby teams, or the All Blacks, weakened by players making the switch to Sevens.
“Could we have maybe made more of a priority of Sevens or said that Sevens takes precedence over All Blacks in 2016? But even then it would still come down to player choice,” said Sorensen.
“I can never imagine a time when we’ll say you can’t play for the All Blacks, you must play for the Sevens or vice versa.”
Tew added: “Is it surprising? A little. Is it disappointing? Yep. Can we force players to play Sevens? No – and we won’t.”
While disappointed, by not coming out and making Sevens Rugby an absolute priority, particularly in an Olympic year, NZR has left the decision up to the players themselves. And it appears Savea has made his.
Original source: Savea withdrawal blow for NZ