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'The right decision' - Reece goes from cancelled Connacht deal to the All Blacks

IRFU CEO Philip Browne believes the union and Connacht made the right call.

AMONG THE POINTS of interest in today’s Rugby Championship clash between New Zealand and Argentina in Buenos Aires is a Test debut for 22-year-old Sevu Reece.

The flying wing will make his bow for the All Blacks after a sublime maiden Super Rugby season in which he scored 15 tries as the Crusaders secured their third title in a row.

While he’s in the ‘bolter’ category in terms of the World Cup, it’s difficult to argue the case that Reece doesn’t deserve a chance to show he can step up in the international game on purely rugby terms – his freakish pace, power, footwork, evasion skills and creativity are impossible to ignore.

Sevu Reece Reece scored 15 tries for the Crusaders as they won Super Rugby. Source: Photosport/Martin Hunter/INPHO

But Reece’s selection has drawn ire from some quarters in New Zealand and further afield, given that he was in court as recently as last October charged with assaulting his partner.

Before that court case, Reece had been set to move to Ireland to join Connacht – having signed a contract with the Irish province.

New Zealand publication Stuff reported that Connacht had submitted a letter to the court stating that a conviction would mean his contract was withdrawn.

Fiji native Reece pleaded guilty but was discharged without conviction. Among several other factors, the judge reportedly noted that a contract in Ireland could help Reece to provide for his family, with his partner having forgiven his actions.

But Reece’s contract with Connacht was cancelled.

“Connacht Rugby and the IRFU have taken the decision, following contact with Sevu Reece in relation to the circumstances of a recent court appearance, not to proceed with a contract to play with the province,” read a brief statement.

Reece’s rugby career was under threat, as his local Super Rugby side, the Chiefs, opted not to contract him either.

But the Crusaders suffered a blow when Fijian wing Manasa Mataele suffered a serious injury early in the 2019 Super Rugby season, with the Christchurch-based franchise calling on Reece to fill his place in their training squad.

Reece, who moved to New Zealand from Fiji as a teenager, impressed the Crusaders enough to earn a Super Rugby debut in March. Having scored against the Chiefs on that occasion, he never looked back in racking up 15 scintillating tries to help the Crusaders to trophy glory.

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen subsequently called Reece – who qualifies for New Zealand on residency grounds – up to his Rugby Championship squad and now the pacy wide man will make his Test debut for the All Blacks.

inpho_01540767 Reece moved to New Zealand from Fiji as a teenager. Source: Photosport/Martin Hunter/INPHO

What happens next remains to be seen – Hansen has come under fire for some of his comments surrounding this wing’s call-up and domestic violence – but the turnaround in Reece’s fortunes in the space of 10 months has been remarkable.

The IRFU, which was naturally centrally involved in the decision to cancel Reece’s contract with Connacht, has no regrets about its call last year.

The union’s CEO, Philip Browne, said yesterday that the IRFU and Connacht had made the correct call.

“For us, it was the right decision,” said Browne yesterday. “For Connacht, it was the right decision and for the IRFU. At the end of the day, we have values and you either stand by your values or you don’t.

“We effectively said, ‘We think this is not the greatest thing for us to do.’ At the same time, you obviously have to look at the fact that every person has their own challenges and it’s not for us to be, effectively, judgemental on the individual.

“But at the same time, it’s important for us that we live the values that we put up on the wall.

“I think it was the right decision.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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