All Blacks winger charged with assault


Wellington - All Blacks winger Julian Savea has been charged with assault following a domestic incident involving his partner, saying he "did some things that are wrong and that I shouldn't have done."

Nicknamed "The Bus", the 22-year-old has featured on posters in New Zealand's "It's Not OK" national campaign against family violence.

He will make a court appearance in Wellington on Monday. The charge relates to an incident that occurred last weekend.

The winger sobbed as he read from a prepared statement at a news conference on Sunday.

"Whilst I can't go in to the details because it is now before the courts, I understand that the details will come out in due course," Savea said. "But I will say that my partner and I did have an argument, I did some things that are wrong and that I shouldn't have done and I apologize for that.

"I just want you guys to know that I'm not making excuses for myself. I know what I did was wrong and I'm taking steps to make sure this will never happen again and my main concern after all of this is making sure that my partner and baby are okay after all of this."

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said the New Zealand union was "very disappointed to learn of this incident and Julian's subsequent charge.

Tew said alcohol was not a factor in the incident. He also confirmed officials of Savea's Super Rugby team, the Wellington-based Hurricanes, were aware of the incident when they allowed the winger to play against the Western Force on Friday.

"There was a large group of people who gave that a lot of thought, including Julian himself and the coaches of the Hurricanes," Tew said.

Savea made his All Blacks debut last year and has scored 12 tries in nine tests.

His arrest has again put the spotlight on the off-field behaviour of prominent All Blacks and forced the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) to review whether there is sufficient support available for players.

"Without judging the rights or wrongs of this case, we are concerned that this is another incident involving a young player," Tew said.

"We need to find out whether we are doing enough to help these young men cope with the pressures of the professional game.

"As a result of these various incidents, we will be undertaking an independent assessment of the support we provide players from their time of induction into the professional game."

 James Te Puni, the chief executive of Savea's Wellington Hurricanes Super 15 side, said, "I have spoken with Julian who is deeply upset to be in this position and now needs to deal with the situation."

Although there has been no suggestion alcohol was a factor, it has been a central part of incidents involving other past and present All Blacks in recent years.

Earlier this year, Zac Guildford, who has a well-publicised history of alcohol-related problems, underwent a treatment programme at a private clinic after becoming involved in a brawl.

NZRU head of professional rugby Neil Sorensen admitted then that not enough had been done to help Guildford after his previous fall from grace when he ran naked into a bar and allegedly punched two men in 2011.

Jimmy Cowan, Sione Lauaki and Jarrad Hoeata are other All Blacks who have been in trouble because of drinking while Jerome Kaino, Dane Coles and Rene Ranger are reported to have completed alcohol counselling.

The New Zealand Herald reported last month that since 2008, 25 high-level players have sought professional help for alcohol and drug issues.

- Sapa

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