Test

Blackadder: Savea can go down as one of the greats

Former New Zealand captain Todd Blackadder believes Julian Savea is destined to go down as "one of the greats" as the winger closes in on becoming the All Blacks' leading try scorer.

Savea took his tally of tries to 45 in just 49 Tests when the world champions beat Australia last month to became the first top-tier nation to win 18 consecutive matches.

The 26-year-old is fourth on the list of all-time try-scorers for his country, just four short of matching the record set by Doug Howlett.

Ireland will be braced to feel the force of the imposing Savea in Chicago this weekend, with Steve Hansen's all-conquering side then facing the same opponents in Dublin this month either side of Tests against Italy and France.

Blackadder knows New Zealand are lucky to have such a special talent, who is on the cusp of making history.

The Bath director of rugby told Omnisport: "There's no doubt he can go down as one of the greats and he just has so much more rugby in him, he's just 26. He's a class player and he can do something which no one else has ever done [with his tally of tries]. 

"He's so close to Doug Howlett's record mark now. He's unbelievable, just an awesome player."

Asked if Savea is the best player in the world, Blackadder said: "He's up there. He's got pure class, X-factor and what he has is that physicality, pace and endurance.

"He has incredible strength and punch, he's an unbelievable talent."

Blackadder was also full of praise for the way New Zealand have continued to take on all comers after losing key men such as Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Ma'a Nonu following their World Cup triumph last year.

"I'm not surprised [with such a seamless transition] at all, because it's often so much about the legacy you leave," Blackadder said.

"Richie McCaw will probably take a lot more pride now with the fact that the All Blacks are continuing to win. 

"The other guys who retired will also take a lot of pride in the way that the current team keep getting better and winning, because it says a lot about what they gave back to the organisation. 

"I think it's a testament to the culture, to the development and to how much they put into that team that it just keeps winning. The players who come in are really clear on the expectations and standards and they want to keep contributing to the legacy."