Hot and humid training conditions this week, coupled with a dragonfly attack, leave the All Blacks confident Ardie Savea has sufficiently trialled the goggles he will wear for the first time in their World Cup pool match against Canada in Oita tomorrow.
Savea will become the first player to wear the goggles at the World Cup after the All Blacks revealed he has been battling serious sight troubles in his left eye for the past two years.
"A couple of years ago I realised I had bad vision in my left eye," Savea said. "Everything's kind of blurry. I told All Blacks doctor Tony Page that it was getting worse and now we're doing something about it.
"Doc notified me that World Rugby had some goggles that were approved and everyone has been really supportive. In terms of vision and seeing, it's pretty sweet, and it's now just a matter of getting used to them."
In May this year World Rugby approved the use of the goggles at all levels of rugby to allow those who are visually impaired to play the game. The approval came after extensive development and robust testing of the eyewear.
The goggles Savea will wear are protective, not corrective.
Savea follows in the footsteps of Irish-born Italian playmaker Ian McKinley, the first international player to wear the goggles, but the All Blacks flanker will be the first to wear them at the global tournament.
When Savea realised he could potentially lose his sight if his other eye was damaged, it had been an easy decision to make.
"I've got my little girl and hopefully future kids and a bigger family, so I want to be able to see. I'm just thinking of the bigger picture and trying to protect my eyes."
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster suggested management held no long-term fears for Savea's career prospects. Foster was comfortable the goggles would not have a major impact on Savea's performance after the team trained in conditions with humidity at 90 per cent in 20 degrees.
"It's not a concern for us from the point of view that we're not surprised," Foster said. "He's been dealing with it for a few years but he came up the last week or so and said it's deteriorating a little bit.
"We've got a great medical staff so we trust the research they've done. They've come up with this conclusion and it was a great week to be able to trial it.
"We've trained physically, it's been hot, humid. We had a day where were attacked by dragonflies at training which was quite unique and special. He's come through that really good and he feels really confident.
"As far as we're concerned this is just a standard safety issue. It looks a bit different but it's not unique there's other players playing with it. I think it's great Ardie has been able to make a decision for his health to protect it and he's going to follow through with that."
Beauden Barrett spent many years playing alongside Savea with the Hurricanes and All Blacks but only recently appeared to be aware of the issue.
"It sort of makes sense because I've never thought of it until this point but now I remember certain games or trainings when he'd be sort of blinking a bit more than usual," Barrett said. "Other than that I can remember scenarios or places where it makes sense."
While he didn't see himself as a role model by wearing the goggles, Savea was aware of the potential impact of his decision, especially with visually impaired children.
"If by me wearing these inspires them to get some, and for them to try out the game of rugby, then it's a positive all round for our sport."
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