WELLINGTON (AFP) – Winger Sevu Reece capped a remarkable career revival when he was named yesterday as one of four debutants in the All Blacks’ 39-man squad for the Rugby Championship.
The Fijian-born speedster’s future looked grim late last year when Irish side Connacht cancelled his contract after he was fined for assaulting his girlfriend.
Also unwanted by Waikato Chiefs, Reece was handed a lifeline by Canterbury Crusaders and rewarded them with a competition-high 15 tries that helped them reach Saturday’s Super Rugby final against Argentina’s Jaguares.
It culminated in the 22-year-old being named in the All Black squad yesterday, along with fellow newcomers back Braydon Ennor, halfback Josh Ioane and loose forward Luke Jacobson.
“(Reece) scores tries and he just plays like he enjoys his rugby, he’s a pocket rocket and I’m excited about working with him,” coach Steve Hansen said.
Hansen did not address Reece’s troubled past but the Crusaders insisted when they signed him that he was genuinely remorseful.
Hansen was initially set to name a 41-man squad for the opening two fixtures of the Rugby Championship but cut it to 39 after Crusaders Ryan Crotty and Scott Barrett were both sidelined with hand injuries.
The large squad is because most Crusaders players will sit out the Test against Argentina on July 21 to recover from the Super Rugby final, although they will be available against the Springboks in Wellington a week later.
As expected, Kieran Read captains the squad, with stalwarts such as Sonny Bill Williams, Sam Cane and Owen Franks in despite recent injury problems.
A notable inclusion is one-Test halfback Brad Weber, who has been repeatedly overlooked by selectors but forced his way into contention with a strong season for Waikato Chiefs.
Two-time World Cup winning centre Ma’a Nonu’s push to rejoin the All Blacks at 37 was unsuccessful, with winger Waisake Naholo and hooker Nathan Harris among those to miss out.
Hansen said loose forward Liam Squire had ruled himself out of contention, saying he was not ready to return to international rugby after spending most of the Super Rugby season out injured.