11 Jan 2012

Force struggling for playmakers after Ripia's shock exit

10:17 pm on 11 January 2012

Western Force coach Richard Graham must frantically scour the rugby globe to find an adequate replacement for alleged thief Willie Ripia.

The five-eighth and former New Zealand Maori representative sensationally quit the Super Rugby franchise on Tuesday after being captured on CCTV camera allegedly stealing money from team-mates in the changerooms at the squad's Perth headquarters.

Although the deadline for final squad lists expired on December 31, the Force have been given special permission by the Australian Rugby Union to replace Ripia, who was the club's foreign development player.

The 26-year-old resigned after he was informed about the footage last week.

Police are not involved as none of the players who lost money have made an official complaint outside of the club.

It's believed Ripia had been having counselling - organised by the Force - for his gambling problems.

The New Zealand-born No.10 played seven matches last year with the Force after moving across from the Hurricanes for the 2011 season.

His departure is a massive blow for the Force, whose five-eighth stocks are dangerously low following James O'Connor's switch to the Melbourne Rebels.

Halfback James Stannard impressed in the key playmaker's role at the tail-end of 2011, but is yet to prove himself in the position over the course of a Super season.

And 21-year-old Ben Seymour, who was part of the Waratahs Academy last season, and 19-year-old Kyle Godwin are yet to even taste Super action.