29 Apr 2016

NZR says Rio gold a priority, didn't shoulder tap Savea

3:51 pm on 29 April 2016

Chief executive of New Zealand Rugby Steve Tew claims the All Blacks played no part in Hurricanes openside Ardie Savea's decision to pull out of contention for the Olympics.

Ardie Savea in action at the Wellington Sevens.

Ardie Savea in action at the Wellington Sevens. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Savea made the call to withdraw his involvement from New Zealand sevens side on Sunday, saying he wanted to concentrate on Super Rugby as he chases a spot in the All Blacks.

New Zealand Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens was left bitterly disappointed as Savea had been a key piece of his puzzle for Rio.

Savea has been talked about as an All Black in waiting by coach Hansen and the 22-year-old is obviously keen to break into the side, following the retirement of Richie McCaw.

There had been speculation that the All Blacks may have shoulder-tapped Savea, but Tew said none of the All Blacks players, coaches or management tried to influence his decision.

"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," Tew said.

Tew also reacted angrily to suggestions New Zealand Rugby weren't doing all they could to win Olympic gold.

Apart from Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam there are no All Blacks or high profile fifteens players vying for a place in Rio, and Savea's withdrawal prompted critcisms that NZR weren't taking the Olympics seriously.

Tew said those claims were completely incorrect.

"We have absolutely emphasised Rio. We have invested literally millions of dollars in both the men's and women's programmes, significantly more money than we have put anywhere near sevens in the past," he said.

"If you look at the women's programme, we now have a group of professional full-time athletes, which we would never have envisaged if we weren't going to the Olympics."

Tew conceded New Zealand Rugby's views on the significance of sevens at the Olympics may differ from many players who were trying to secure Super Rugby and All Blacks spots.

He said while all the All Blacks and New Zealand rugby players were encouraged to chase a spot in Rio if that's what they desired, NZR couldn't and wouldn't force anyone to play sevens.

Tew believed there would be more top fifteens players vying for Sevens spots at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.