Sevu Reece's rapid rise - aided by ROG - leads to World Cup in Japan

The 22-year-old’s contract with Connacht was cancelled last year after a court appearance.

SEVU REECE VERY much comes across as the shy Fijian, softly-spoken and seemingly surprised that anyone wants to hear what he has to say.

The 22-year-old, who moved to New Zealand as a teenager, does become a little more animated when joking with Crusaders and All Blacks team-mate Ryan Crotty, who sits alongside Reece at the Kiwis’ press conference in the plush Conrad Hotel in Tokyo.

A couple of rooms away, there’s a wedding in full swing as Reece shifts nervously in his seat.

He has just three All Blacks caps, but head coach Steve Hansen couldn’t resist the wing’s exciting skillset when selecting his 31-man World Cup squad. 

sevu-reece-celebrates-a-try Reece could be a big star in Japan. Source: Photosport/Marty Melville/INPHO

Having dotted down two tries in those three Tests so far, continuing his prolific Super Rugby form, Reece has already been installed as one of the favourites to be top try-scorer in Japan. 

The Nadi native could have been a Connacht player, having signed for the Irish province only for his contract to be cancelled last October after he was charged with assaulting his partner. 

Reece was discharged from the New Zealand court without conviction but the IRFU and Connacht opted against going ahead with the deal, a move that IRFU CEO Philip Browne stressed was “the right decision” in July.

The story for Reece since has been a remarkably rapid rise, having been brought into the Crusaders fold initially as injury cover before scoring 15 Super Rugby tries and making his All Blacks debut in July. He now has the chance to be a star at this World Cup.

“It was always a dream of mine to become an All Black,” said Reece yesterday when asked to sum up his journey. 

“It doesn’t come easy, it takes a lot of hard work to become an All Blacks. I guess that’s how it all started, it was always a dream and I’ve put the hard work in. I’m grateful to be here.”

Ronan O’Gara was an instrumental figure in Reece’s growth as a player at the Crusaders and has taken some pride in how the young wing developed so quickly that Hansen simply couldn’t ignore his ability for this World Cup.

The Irishman has left New Zealand and is settling in as head coach of La Rochelle in France now, but Reece is appreciative of his guidance.

“He was actually really good,” said Reece. “He’s a very different coach to work with, he changed a lot about the way I defend and stuff, which has helped me a lot in Super Rugby this year and also at Test level too.”

kieran-read-and-sevu-reece-celebrate-with-the-bledisloe-cup Reece celebrates the Kiwis' recent Bledisloe Cup success. Source: Photosport/Marty Melville/INPHO

Reece’s team-mates have been stressing to him that he doesn’t need to alter his game too much now on the world stage, encouraging him to stay relaxed and keep doing what has done to get to this point.

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“He’s awesome,” said centre Crotty of Reece yesterday. “He’s just backed himself and believed in his ability and worked hard. He’s continued to take any opportunity that’s come his way and it’s great to see. He did a great job for us at the Crusaders on what we tried to execute, he nailed that.

“He’s learning a lot being in this environment, obviously he’s got some pretty good coaches helping him out. If he continues to stay humble and work hard, he could be an unbelievable player.”

Crotty did jokingly add that he had to be nice about Reece as they are roommates in Japan, but the Fijian appears to be a very popular figure amongst the group.

“He’s just a really good kid,” said hooker Codie Taylor, another player who knows Reece from the Crusaders. “He’s from Fiji and spent a bit of time in New Zealand in school.

“He’s taken the opportunities he’s got and showed a lot of resilience this year to come back and perform really well for the Crusaders and then take that to the next level and perform for the All Blacks.

“That’s not an easy thing to do, especially for a young winger like himself, but he really enjoys being part of the team and really thrives off the boys. It creates a lot of energy for us when you see someone like that come in to play and step up. I’m just really rapt for him to take his opportunities.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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