All Blacks star Ardie Savea will be looking for a different reception from New Zealand Rugby this week, after finally opting to wear a mouthguard.
Savea was spotted without the protective equipment during New Zealand’s 24-22 defeat to the Wallabies in Brisbane last weekend, less than a month after he was condemned by NZR for not wearing a mouthguard during Bledisloe Cup II at Eden Park.
The 47-test loose forward broke the NZR players’ collective agreement, whereby players have agreed “to wear a mouthguard in the course of playing” under section 53 of the 2019-2020 document.
New Zealand Rugby said they were “incredibly disappointed”.
But it’s a different story tonight, with Savea wearing the protective equipment during the All Blacks’ Tri Nations game against Argentina.
In 2013, Savea and Wellington teammate Tomasi Palu was sent from the field by referee Nick Briant to retrieve a mouthguard after they were caught without one during a match against Canterbury.
Then aged 19, Savea was unaware mouthguards were compulsory and promised to wear one after having stopped doing so due to breathing difficulties.
“I feel like I need to wear one now,” he said after he was given his marching orders seven years ago.
“I know the refs are going to start enforcing it from now on, so I will be getting one fitted ASAP.
“That was bad on my behalf. It is a good thing they are cracking down and forcing the players to wear one. It is not a good example for young players to follow.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 14, 2020
Savea was criticised three years later after he and five other teammates – Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Waisake Naholo, Dane Coles and Tawera Kerr-Barlow – were seen not wearing mouthguards while playing for the All Blacks against Wales.
Just a fortnight after that, Savea, Coles and Vaea Fifita were all spotted without the protective equipment while playing for the Hurricanes against the Blues.
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