Rugby World Cup 2019: Sevu Reece selection ramps up debate over All Blacks morals

As Sevu Reece began his first day training with the All Blacks squad, his coaches were still fighting the fires around his selection.

When asked about his decision to pick Reece despite a violent assault on his partner last year, head coach Steve Hansen told Radio Sport:  "It's not just restricted to males assaulting women - women assault males, so it's not a gender thing.

Now Hansen says those comments were interpreted as minimising how poisonous and harmful domestic violence is for women, and that's not what he intended.

"I'm glad to have the chance to correct this impression," he said in a statement. 

"I get the fact that the vast majority of victims of domestic violence are women and children. That's not in dispute and is plain wrong."

Jane Drumm of anti-domestic violence organisation Shine says she'd hoped Hansen would have gone further.

"What he said is completely unsatisfactory," she says. "Why hasn't he apologised?

"Why isn't he making a stand."

Hansen's remarks come as Otago University released a study finding that moral and social values need to be taken into account when selecting All Blacks players.

"We have used the idea of 'sport builds character', so there is an implicit assumption in that statement that you're building moral character," said Otago University associate professor Tania Cassidy.

"I would like to think society values social skills, moral values, as well as technical skills."

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster says there is no change in the team's stance on selecting Reece.

"Do we pick on moral ground?" he says. "Well, I think our morals and our integrity are a key part of who we are, but we're not a perfect environment and I'd love you to tell me who is."

Foster says he doesn't deny there are imperfect people in the team, but he says it's part of the plan to use rugby as the solution.

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