All Blacks coach Steve Hansen moved Wednesday to clarify comments he made in the wake of Sevu Reece’s controversial selection that downplayed the role of gender in domestic violence.
Hansen has vigorously defended the All Blacks’ decision to select Reece, a player who less than 12 months ago pleaded guilty to assaulting his girlfriend in the street during an argument.
Commenting on the issue over the weekend, Hansen said that as a former police officer he had seen a lot of domestic violence and believed poor parenting was a primary cause.
“I know it’s not just restricted to males assaulting women, women assault males too,” the coach told Radio Sport.
“It’s not a gender thing, it’s a New Zealand problem.”
Critics labelled the remarks “tone deaf” and Hansen said in a statement release via New Zealand Rugby on Wednesday that he had been misinterpreted.
“Over the last few days it has become clear that my comments have come across to some people as being unsympathetic or minimising how poisonous and harmful domestic violence is for women,” he said.
“Nothing could be further from what I intended.”
He went on to acknowledge “the vast majority of victims of domestic violence are women and children”.
“That’s not in dispute and is plain wrong,” he said.
However, Hansen stood by his belief that rugby had helped rehabilitate Reece and the winger deserved a chance with the world champions.
Domestic violence campaigners have questioned the 22-year-old’s right to wear the black jersey so soon after he appeared in court for attacking his girlfriend.
Reece pleaded guilty and was fined but no conviction was recorded after his lawyer argued it would derail his fledgling rugby career.
Irish side Connacht cancelled his contract and Reece also found himself unwanted by the Waikato Chiefs.
But Canterbury Crusaders handed the Fijian-born speedster a lifeline and he rewarded them with a competition-high 15 tries that helped them to win the Super Rugby title for the third year in succession.
© Agence France-Presse