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30th Oct 2023

Ardie Savea’s World Rugby Player of the Year speech was as pure as it gets

Patrick McCarry

Ardie Savea

“I just try and go out there, fulfil the black jersey and give my best.”

The 2023 World Rugby Awards may have thrown up a few questionable selections, but there was no more popular winner than Ardie Savea.

World Rugby hosted a glitzy award ceremony in Paris, the night after South Africa defeated New Zealand 12-11 in a nail-biting World Cup final. The Boks, and their fresh buzz-cuts, were out in force and they brought the Webb Ellis trophy with them.

Eben Etzebeth, strangely enough, was the sole recipient of a ‘Dream Team of the Year’ selection and he was joined on stage by Bundee Aki and four All Blacks, who also made the illustrious XV. Asked how big the victory celebrations had been, the lock joked, “Look at how my hair looks, thanks to RG Snyman at 5 o’clock this morning. Thanks for that!”

Ardie SaveaEben Etzebeth, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert and Jean Kleyn, who also got a buzz-cut. (Credit: Getty)

Ardie Savea follows great speech with humble interview

Eben Etzebeth and Bundee Aki, along with Antoine Dupont, were the fellow World Rugby Player of the Year nominees – Pieter Steph du Toit should have been a late addition – but Ardie Savea took home the big honour.

After receiving his award from Dan Carter, one of five previous All Blacks to win it, Savea delivered a great speech that showed you everything you need to know about his class, and character.

“It’s very special,” he began. “Very blessed and grateful to be up here.

“I guess for an individual to stand out it’s based on the foundation of the team. A massive shout-out to Foz (Ian Foster), skip (captain, Sam Cane) and my brothers this year and the last couple of years, and the journey we’ve been through.

“I wouldn’t say I’m in the same category as those guys (previous winners of the award from New Zealand) – they’re legends, but I just try and go out there, fulfil the black jersey and give my best. That’s all I can do and I have 14 other brothers next to me doing the same thing.

“What this team has been through not only this year but the past couple of years under Foz has been very special and we would have loved the fairy tale ending last night. It wasn’t meant to be but it’s a special group of men and I’m so blessed to be able to represent the All Blacks.”

Ardie Savea then spoke with the BBC about his year of Test rugby, and the heartache on missing out on World Cup glory.

“If you asked me honestly, if there was any other team to win the World Cup, I would say the Springboks.

“Just a great nation and to see how rugby unifies their country is amazing. It’s a great thing for the game and for us, as well, to be able to come here… part of being an All Black is to have humility and to walk around with the head high, and enjoy the moments.”

Andy Farrell wins Coach of the Year

Leinster-bound Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber lost out, somewhat surprising, to Andy Farrell as Coach of the Year was announced.

Farrell, who led Ireland to their fourth ever Grand Slam and the World Cup quarter finals, thanked his fellow coaches, support staff, players and supporters of the team.

“I would like to thank World Rugby for this recognition and congratulate the other nominees for their efforts this year,” he said.

“Coaching is a demanding and hugely rewarding profession, with many highs and lows, and in accepting this award, I would like to pay tribute to the players and wider coaching and support staff who work tirelessly to bring success to Irish rugby. I am incredibly proud to work with such a talented and committed group.

“This award is recognition for all those involved in Irish rugby and our incredible supporters who travel near and far to support us. I am honoured to accept this award on their behalf.”

To our mind, Nienaber should have taken that award, ahead of Farrell, and the likes of Pieter Steph du Toit, Jesse Kriel and a couple of other in-form Springboks should have made the ‘Best XV’.

The women’s award-winners will be confirmed next weekend, at the conclusion of the first ever WXV tournament.


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