New Zealand Rugby says it is “incredibly disappointed” in All Blacks star Ardie Savea’s refusal to wear a mouthguard, an instance that occurred yet again in Bledisloe Cup IV last weekend.
Savea was spotted without the protective equipment during New Zealand’s 24-22 defeat to the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday, less than a month after he was condemned by NZR for not wearing a mouthguard during Bledisloe Cup II at Eden Park.
In doing so, the 47-test loose forward has broken 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.
After Savea failed to wear a mouthguard last month, NZR general manager of professional rugby and performance Chris Lendrum issued a statement to Stuff at the time, which read: “We are aware of the issue and will be working through it with all our players.”
When asked of Savea’s latest indiscretion at Suncorp Stadium, Lendrum said he wasn’t aware of the issue, but labelled it as “incredibly disappointing”.
“I didn’t see that myself but if that’s the case then that’s obviously incredibly disappointing,” he told Stuff on Wednesday.
“We expect our professional players to set the standard and role model for all of our players in the community and their whanau.
“If that’s the case we’ll look into it, and we’ve obviously already raised this issue in recent times with the All Blacks and with our Super Rugby teams and Mitre 10 Cup teams, so we’ll do that again, and we’ll have to do that pretty seriously if we’ve got repeat offenders.”
That suggests Savea could be in line for some stern words from his employers given his long track record of not wearing a mouthguard during games.
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.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 11, 2020
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.”
Savea was criticised by Lendrum 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.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now