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Academic challenges NZ Rugby to focus more on character than performance when selecting All Blacks

A new study from Otago University is calling on New Zealand Rugby to consider moral values when selecting elite players.

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"You don't need a team of all stars, you want one that works well together," associate professor Tania Cassidy says. Source: Breakfast

The study, released yesterday, detailed a list of socially-orientated "character assessment values" NZR and its Super Rugby teams use when they assess a player's character during the selection process.

The list included work ethic, competitiveness, resilience, coachability, and motivation in rugby.

However the study's co-author - associate professor Tania Cassidy - told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning NZR needed to consider more.

"In any sport, those teams made up of superstars aren't necessarily the best teams," Cassidy said.

"Sometimes you can pick a team that's full of all the stars but they don't gel or they cause mayhem off the pitch and it requires the team administrators to use a lot of energy to bring them back into the fold.

"I think, sometimes, we don't necessarily need a team of all stars, you want a team that works well together and that means it's also about the social values as well as the moral values with your technical skills."

Cassidy said research with provincial unions showed a focus on player development, as opposed to NZR, which focused primarily on improving performance.

"The old saying, 'what goes on tour, stays on tour,' may have been acceptable a generation ago but increasingly there's an expectation that we do behave more appropriately.

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The team celebrated a Game of Thrones themed evening last night. Source: 1 NEWS

"I think, maybe, the character values that New Zealand Ruby established in their six pillar player development stemmed from that idea of 'what goes on tour, stays on tour' and so therefore the character values were more about the social values and the technical aspirations of the team."

The study comes after a few issues surfaced for NZR this season.

An investigation was launched into the behavior of players - including All Blacks - during the Crusaders' tour of South Africa in which it was alleged homophobic abuse took place. 

There was also an allegation that a woman was spat on but findings from the investigation said all the claims couldn't be "substantiated".

The All Blacks also faced questions after Crusaders winger Sevu Reece was selected last week for the Rugby Championship, despite being discharged without conviction for a domestic incident involving his girlfriend last year.

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Reece was given a discharge without conviction last year following an incident with his partner. Source: 1 NEWS

Reece saw his contract with Irish club Connacht ripped up shortly after the incident surfaced and while Super Rugby clubs initially stayed clear of signing him, the Crusaders offered him a lifeline for the 2019. He went to lead the competition in try-scoring.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen defended the selection though.

"That's all been dealt with, both in the court and by the rugby union," Hansen said.

"We've had conversations with the Crusader people that have been managing him and everyone is giving him a massive tick.

"He's giving himself one on the track, as well as off it at the moment.

"Whist you have to put it in consideration, it's been dealt with and you have to move on, and he's playing good football.

"I don't think there is one New Zealander who wouldn't have picked him in the team. You have to do your due diligence, and we've done that and we're happy."