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All Black Ardie Savea’s mixed emotions after being crowned world’s best

By Finn Morton
New Zealand's number eight Ardie Savea poses with his trophy after being awarded Men's 15s Player of the Year during the 23rd edition of the annual World Rugby Awards ceremony at the Opera Garnier in Paris on October 29, 2023. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP) (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Hurt, loss and sadness were three words that quickly came to mind as All Blacks backrower Ardie Savea fronted the press after being crowned the World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year.


Those words aren’t commonly associated with such an honour, but Savea couldn’t run, hide or burrow away from the despair of defeat after Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final at Stade de France.

It’s safe to say it was a weekend that Ardie Savea will never forget. Savea, 30, played in rugby union’s biggest Test for the first time as New Zealand faced rivals South Africa for eternal glory.

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The All Blacks were dealt a painful blow inside the opening few minutes as flanker Shannon Frizell was sent to the sin bin. But later in the first term, the New Zealanders were knocked to the canvas.

Captain Sam Cane was shown a red card – the first in men’s Rugby World Cup final history. Savea stepped up as the leader the All Blacks desperately needed, and his influence was almost enough.

But the All Blacks fell short. There was only one point in it, but that’s all the Springboks needed to secure back-to-back World Cup titles.

“A lot of hurt. I don’t think we’ve processed it yet, I haven’t personally. I think it’ll really hit when I jump on the plane and it’s all quiet and you spend 14 hours just thinking about it,” Savea told reporters after the World Rugby Awards.


“I reckon that will probably be the time when it hits.

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“That was one of the worst losses I’ve had in my career,” he added.

“I like to try and find positive things when things go bad. I woke up this morning and saw my kids and my wife and I just said, ‘I’m blessed.’

“It’s just a game. Even though it hurts and it hurts the nation, that’s one of my worst losses so far.”

About 22 hours after the full-time whistle, Savea walked onto the stage at Paris Opera Garnier to shake All Blacks great Dan Carter’s hand. Savea had just been named the world’s best player.


While Savea was humble and proud to receive the accolade, there was no hiding from the memories of the night before. The disappointment from the World Cup defeat was still very real for Savea.

But Savea offered a grin to reporters as he held onto his new trophy. With a twinkle in his eye, you could see how much the award meant to him.

“Very honoured and blessed to receive the award, mate. I’m lost for words actually,” Savea said.

“We lost last night and that really hurt so it’s nice to have something positive.

“I’d rather win the World Cup and send off our brothers who are playing their last game for the All Blacks with a World Cup, but hey, it’s not meant to be.

“We’re gonna go back and get around those boys and celebrate their careers.”

Savea is moving away from New Zealand for a bit, but the All Black will be back. The world-class loose forward will miss Super Rugby Pacific after taking up an opportunity for a sabbatical in Japan.


But it’s still the end of an era for New Zealand Rugby.

Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Nepo Laulala and Dane Coles are all former All Blacks. Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga have potentially played their last Test in the jersey, too.

When asked to name the teammate he’ll miss playing with the most, Savea quickly responded with “all of them.”

“They come from an old school cloth and sometimes old school is good, it keeps the boys on edge.

“I need them if I’m playing… I think I’m going to miss all of them. They bring their own strengths and qualities and I’m going to miss (coach Ian Foster) Foz.

“I’ve built a special relationship with Foz and I just want to take this time too to honour him. He’s coached the team during COVID and through some storms in this black jersey. It’s a shame we couldn’t give him the fairytale ending but I know God’s got bigger plans for us.”


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