10 Jul 2019

Rugby: Moral values should be considered in ABs selection - study

6:25 am on 10 July 2019

A study from the University of Otago is calling for moral as well as social values to be considered in the rugby selection process.

Sevu Reece will make his debut for the Crusaders against the Chiefs.

Sevu Reece will make his debut for the Crusaders against the Chiefs. Photo: Photosport

It follows the selection of Sevu Reece for the squad. Reece, who has been playing with the Crusaders this year, was last year discharged without conviction for one count of male assualts female.

He pleaded guilty to assaulting his partner during a night out in Hamilton in July.

Reece had signed a two-year deal with Irish club Connacht which was later cancelled after he was discharged without conviction in the Hamilton District Court on one count of male assaults female.

After initially being overlooked by New Zealand's five Super Rugby franchises, Reece was handed a lifeline by the Crusaders, joining the two-time defending champions as an injury replacement for fellow Fijian Manasa Mataele in pre-season.

The study has a list of socially orientated "character assessment values", including work ethic, competitiveness, resilience, coachability, and motivation in rugby, which they use to assess players' character during the selection process.

The authors, associate professor Tania Cassidy and Otago graduate Ryan Rosevear, say a focus should be placed on compassion and fairness.

"NZR lacks clear emphasis on moral values. This reflects other researchers' claims that principles such as honesty and sportspersonship are not often emphasised in elite team sports because they do not win matches," Mr Rosevear said.

Ms Cassidy said they found those values aren't a priority at the elite level.

Although they acknowledge that NZR has done well to identify five social values to encourage coaches and selectors to use to judge a player's character.

However, Ms Cassidy said at a provincial level, NZR's assessment criteria has been modified.

"They adopted and adapted the New Zealand Rugby policy to incorporate social values and moral values into their own explicit criteria," she said.

"So they incorporated moral values such as integrity, trust, people being role models, and being compassionate off the field.

"When they were looking at selecting players for their talent identification and development squads, they were looking at social values as well as moral values."

The researchers said the focus of provincial unions was on player development, as opposed to NZR which primarily focuses on improving performance.

While it is not stated in NZR's list of character assessment values, self-reliance is assumed by some selectors to be a highly desirable trait, especially after the former All Blacks coach, Sir Graham Henry, was quoted as saying: "The more self-reliant players we had, the better we'd play".

Ms Cassidy said NZR should follow their lead of some of their provincial counterparts and consider moral principals alongside social values during the selection process.

She said the findings could be applied to other areas.

"They are also relevant for any recruitment agent, employer, selector, or sports coach who either implicitly or explicitly appoints, promotes, selects, or deselects participants based on character," she said.

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