Force outcast gets Maori call-up
Problem gambler Willie Ripia has been named in the Maori side for their short tour to the United Kingdom, 10 months after quitting the Force after being caught stealing from his teammates.
Problem gambler Willie Ripia has been named in the Maori side for their short tour to the United Kingdom, 10 months after quitting the Western Force after being caught stealing from his teammates.
The 27-year-old former Hurricanes and Maori representative is the sole out-and-out flyhalf in the squad who will play Leicester, an RFU Championship XV and Canada next month.
Ripia, who has undergone counselling for gambling addiction, quit the Force in January after being caught on security camera footage taking money from players' wallets and bags at the team's Perth headquarters.
He returned home to Rotorua and has played for the Bay of Plenty development team.
Coach Jamie Joseph said Ripia's selection for the tour would be an important step in his battle against the addiction.
"He's had some troubles but part of this team is about promoting our people, promoting our players," Joseph told Radio Sport.
Joseph, who was at the helm of the last Maori campaign in 2010 which featured Ripia, handed Chiefs stalwart Tanerau Latimer the captaincy of the 26-strong squad.
"We have selected Tanerau as captain for his perfect mix of talent and leadership on and off the field," Joseph said.
"We are very excited about this tour to England as the program offers an excellent opportunity to display the depth of talent we have."
The side also features Hika Elliot who lost out to Dane Coles for the third hooking spot on the All Blacks' European tour and lock Jarrad Hoeata who played three times for the All Blacks last year, but missed out on the World Cup squad.
"The Maori is a unique team and we feel very privileged to be part of this special campaign," Joseph said.
"Taking on the Leicester Tigers and the unique Championship XV at home will be a challenge for us, especially knowing that the home advantage will be a huge factor for them.
"We are looking forward to the challenge and I know these young men selected today will rise to the occasion," Joseph said.
Backs: Trent Renata, Andre Taylor, Kurt Baker, Kade Poki, Declan O'Donnell, Charlie Ngatai, Jackson Willison, Tim Bateman, Willie Ripia, Jamison Gibson-Park, Frae Wilson.
Forwards: Elliot Dixon, Tanerau Latimer, Karl Lowe, Shane Christie, Nick Crosswell, Jarrad Hoeata, Jason Eaton, Romano Graham, Ross Filipo, Ben May, Bronson Murray, Ben Afeaki, Jacob Ellison, Hika Elliot, Quentin MacDonald.
November 13: v Leicester Tigers, at Welford Road Stadium
November 17: v Championship Select XV, at Castle Park
November 23: v Canada, at Oxford University