Savea eyeing All Blacks return

While Julian Savea is 'loving life' playing for the Wellington Lions in the Mitre 10 Cup, he is also fiercely determined to return to the All Blacks' squad.

Savea was named captain of Wellington for last weekend's massive 60-14 win over Canterbury. Savea seemed to be in desperate need of some positivity since losing his starting spot for the Hurricanes and becoming surplus to All Blacks' requirements.

The 27-year old winger,  who has scored 46 tries in 54 appearances for the All Blacks, is still contracted to New Zealand until the end of 2019.

"It's definitely a goal to get back into the All Blacks and you miss it when you're outside of that environment," Savea told Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldergrave.

"Whatever happens, happens though, all I can do is keep putting in performances every week. But the boys (All Blacks) are doing well, and why would you change it so far? Kudos to them.

"I'm pretty happy where I am at the moment. I've realised where I am at the moment is not where I need to be, but I'm working towards my goal and I have a plan in place - with the right people around me.

"But I'm happy where I'm at, and I'm thankful for the Lions for the opportunity to link back up with them, I haven't played with these guys for five years and I'm enjoying my footy. I'm loving it."

Savea added that he met with the All Blacks management following his axing from the Rugby Championship squad and claims he 'knows where he stands' with them.

"They've let me know they're available in terms of contact, and I've said the same, so we have a plan and hopefully it works out. All I've got to do is take it on the chin and keep striving to be the best."

Savea also admitted that he considered leaving the Hurricanes at the end of the 2017 season, but in the end, he decided it wasn't the right move for him.

Mealamu backs Hansen's split squad decision

All Blacks legend and former hooker Keven Mealamu has backed Steve Hansen's decision to split his squad for their next two Rugby Championship Tests. 

Locks Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick along with Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Beauden Barrett and Ryan Crotty are going straight to South Africa, meaning they will not play against Argentina in Buenos Aires.

The 28-man squad heading to Argentina on Friday will feature uncapped utility back David Havilli, along with recalled forwards Matt Todd, Jerome Kaino, lock Patrick Tuipulotu and prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen.

"It has been a hectic season for the boys especially with the Lions tour," Mealamu told Newshub.

"There will be some sore bodies and this will be a good opportunity for some of the guys who have not had a run yet to get a chance in the black jersey.

"Those guys in the engine room have been working hard and have had their work cut out for them in the last couple of months.

"It’s a good chance for those guys to get their bodies right for the rest of the year.

"As an All Black, you always want to be a part of the team but it has been a big year for them so hopefully they finish well."

The 132-Test All Black was also pleased by New Zealand's performance in their record-breaking 57-0 win over the Springboks on Saturday.

"They played really well on the weekend and put together a really good performance.

"The attack has been good but I think the defensive side really stood up and they scored some good tries off turnover.

"They (the Springboks) had been playing well over the last few games and when you are the All Blacks you always want to step up against an old foe like the Springboks."

Dragons bolster backline stocks

Dragons have announced the signing of American international utility back Thretton Palamo from Bristol on a short-term loan deal.

The 28-year-old linked up with the Welsh Region on Monday at their Ystrad Mynach training base, as they prepare for their PRO14 clash against Ulster this weekend at the Kingspan Stadium.

The versatile player, who can play in the centre and on the wing, joined Bristol in 2016/17 will add support to the Dragons backs due to the recent injuries a few members of the squad have sustained.

Palamo represented the USA during the 2007 Rugby World Cup, becoming the youngest player in history to feature in the tournament at that time.

Dragons Head Coach, Bernard Jackman commented: “He is a really good athlete, he is powerful and strong and has been surrounded by good environments since when he was with Saracens as well as during his time at the American 7s programme for the Olympics.

“I know him from when he was with Saracens and he’ll be a good addition to the squad, I look forward to seeing him play.

“He will be included in the match-day 23 for Ulster."

Cardiff bolster back row stocks

Cardiff Blues have signed Bristol openside flanker Olly Robinson on a short-term loan deal to provide cover in the loose forward department.

With Sam Warburton, Ellis Jenkins and James Botham all currently side-lined, Robinson has been brought in to provide cover on the flank.

The 26-year-old has notched up 55 appearances for the Championship outfit but opportunities have been limited so far this season.

Robinson, the son of former England and Scotland head coach Andy, has already linked up with the Blues and is available for selection.

Vito named Top 14 player of the year

Former All Blacks and Hurricanes loose forward Victor Vito has been voted French rugby's Top 14 player of the year.

Vito guided his La Rochelle side to first place in the Top 14 standings last year before the team was knocked out by Toulon at the semi-final stage.

The 30-year-old, who was selected ahead of Lyon flank Carl Fearns and Clermont centre Remi Lamerat, won the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks for whom he has won 33 caps.

He left the Hurricanes to join La Rochelle at the end of 2016.

Photo credit: La Rochelle official website

Bath's Louw 'on standby' for Boks

Bath flank Francois Louw says he has been notified by the Springboks to be on standby after another injury in the loose forward department.

Jaco Kriel is the latest loose forward to join a lengthy injury list that includes Warren Whiteley and Duane Vermeulen. 

Jean-Luc Du Preez replaced Kriel for last weekend's clash with the All Blacks and is expected to continue in the role. With Cheetahs flank Oupa Mohoje appearing to be surplus to requirements, Louw could be next in line to come off the bench.

The 32-year-old Louw, who has won 52 caps for the Springboks, was a mainstay for the Springboks under the reign of Heyneke Meyer and has proven himself to be a stealthy fetcher, securing the second most turnovers at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

If selected, Louw would miss the trip to last season's Premiership table-toppers Wasps and probably Worcester Warriors the following week. Bath are also struggling with loose forward injuries and losing Louw for a few games could prove costly.

"I am on standby (for South Africa)," Louw told the Bath Chronicle.

"Whether or not they decide to use me, obviously there's been a couple of injuries, but I think they've got enough good men there to do a good job.

"I'm obviously torn, as I've always been, whether I'm playing there or playing here.

"It's a huge honour to play for your country. Any player who has represented their country can tell you that, but this is my club and a team I'm obviously very passionate about.

"This is my seventh season here. It's great to be starting (the Premiership) with the guys, it's something I haven't experienced in the past."

In an interview with SuperSport, Springboks head coach Allister Coetzee said: "The fetching role is quite crucial.

"We will be looking at what we have back home and if we don’t have, certainly we will be looking at players who have been part of this squad last year and who were part of the team at the beginning of the year, for example Francois Louw and so on."

Kriel ruled out for six months

Lions and Springbok flank Jaco Kriel has been ruled out for six weeks with a shoulder injury sustained in the 23-23 Rugby Championship draw with the Wallabies in Perth. 

The injury is worse than initially expected with the Lions confirming that Kriel would have surgery on Tuesday and be sidelined until early 2018.

It is bad luck for Kriel who had only recently broken in to the starting XV after stellar performances for the Lions in recent years.

He did a good job as stand-in captain for the Lions in the absence of the injured Warren Whiteley and has impressed for the Springboks in the Rugby Championship. 

Jean-Luc Du Preez replaced Kriel in the starting line-up for last weekend's humiliation at the hands of the All Blacks.

To add to the Lions' injury woes, lock Lourens Erasmus will undergo an operation on his left knee and will be out for approximately three months.

Erasmus has returned to South Africa after sustaining the injury while playing for Docomo Red Hurricanes in the Japanese Top League.

Leinster prop Healy kicked off domestic flight

Leinster and Ireland prop Cian Healy was kicked off a domestic flight travelling from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town on Sunday. 

Leinster had beaten the Kings 31-10 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday. They were headed to Cape Town before their trip to Bloemfontein to take on the Cheetahs this weekend. 

British and Irish Lions capped prop Healy was reviewing Saturday's match on his laptop at a point when all passengers were asked to turn off their electronic devices. 

Healy refused to turn off his device and was then asked to disembark. 

"Leinster Rugby can confirm that Cian Healy was asked to leave yesterday afternoon's flight from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town," Leinster's statement read according to Sport24.

"The issue related to a misunderstanding around the use of a laptop during the approach to take off.

"Cian disembarked the plane and took the next available flight to Cape Town with the same airline.

"Cian apologised sincerely to all concerned at the time for any inconvenience caused."

Etzebeth slams 'nasty messages' from Bok fans

Springbok lock and stand-in skipper Eben Etzebeth has spoken out against the Springbok supporters who have been targeting the players’ wives and girlfriends as a result of the 57-0 loss to the All Blacks in Albany on Saturday.

The Boks landed in Johannesburg on Monday afternoon and Etzebeth said some of their partners had been subjected to ‘nasty messages’.

"I can understand people being upset with us. They're allowed to be, but keep our families out of it," Etzebeth told Netwerk24.com.

"There are some terrible people out there, saying some nasty things to our wives and girlfriends, and that's not nice to hear."

The 25-year-old said the team did receive a warm welcome at the airport, but they also received plenty of backlash from the general public.

"There are still a few people that wanted to take pictures with us and that applauded us when we got home. But, yes, there were plenty of people that were extremely negative. We understand that, but we always give our all on the pitch."

Erasmus endorses Wessels for Munster job

Rassie Erasmus has endorsed Dave Wessels to replace him when he leaves Munster to take up the role of Director of South African rugby.

Wessels, who was previously coaching the Western Force but is without a job since the axing of the Perth-based franchise from Super Rugby, has worked with Erasmus in the past as a consultant analyst for the Stormers in 2008.

And Erasmus, who won the PRO12 coach of the season award last year in his maiden season at the helm, has vouched for Wessels' integrity and hard-working nature.

“Obviously the guys have asked my opinion about him and that is my involvement, just an opinion. I am not involved further," Erasmus told the Irish Times.

“I don’t know how far along the line it is. His name was in the mix in July and there are a few names I saw, so I think he is one of a few good candidates. I’m not sure how close they are really to finalising that, but he is one of the good options. I know him really well.

“There are so many guys who would be good fits because lots of guys want to be at this club. I can vouch for his character, I worked with him and (can vouch for) his work ethic.

“But I don’t know with whom he is actually competing at the end. There might be great characters as well, but he would be one of the good fits.