WELLINGTON (AFP) – New Zealand Rugby was accused of “deplorable” judgment yesterday over the All Black selection of Sevu Reece, a player who less than 12 months ago pleaded guilty to assaulting his girlfriend.
Reece was one of four new faces named on Tuesday in the All Blacks’ 39-man squad for the Rugby Championship, raising eyebrows because of the personal baggage he still carries from last year’s court case.
The 22-year-old pleaded guilty in a Hamilton court last October to assaulting his girlfriend in the street, causing facial injuries and bruising to her body before a bouncer intervened.
He was fined but no conviction was recorded after his lawyer argued it would derail his rugby career.
Irish side Connacht cancelled his contract and Reece also found himself unwanted by Waikato Chiefs.
But Canterbury Crusaders handed the Fijian-born speedser a lifeline and he rewarded them with a competition-high 15 tries that helped them reach tomorrow’s Super Rugby final against Argentina’s Jaguares.
Now his form has seen him join the world champion All Blacks.
Radio New Zealand sports columnist Hamish Bidwell said Reece should not have even been considered for an All Blacks spot so soon after the attack and his inclusion was deplorable.
“We’re turning a blind eye to behaviour we wouldn’t ordinarily accept, because the person is a talented player,” Bidwell wrote.
The New Zealand Herald’s Chris Rattue agreed, saying New Zealand Rugby acted with “indecent haste” to give Reece a place in the squad and a possible World Cup berth.
“Reece, in my opinion, needed to serve a longer sentence in rugby terms than what has occurred,” the columnist wrote.
Former All Blacks coach Graham Henry used to cite the adage “better men make better All Blacks”, meaning the fabled team were held to the highest standards, on and off the field.