Under fire All Blacks star Richie Mo’unga has taken to social media to offer his side of the story after he was filmed training with teammates near their team base in Christchurch yesterday.
Newshub reported that a witness had spotted the Crusaders players who belonged to separate “bubbles” passing and kicking the ball between them at a park.
The New Zealand Rugby Union was quick to condemn the players involved.
The Crusaders confirmed that Mo’unga was one of the players involved and said in a later statement that it was not an organised team training.
The Crusaders players have since been widely criticised, including from NZ Rugby boss Mark Robinson who said the players’ actions were “unacceptable”.
It came after Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge suggested the players had randomnly bumped into each other at the park after arriving at the venue around the same time without any communication or co-ordination.
Mo’unga also said players from separate households who lived close to the park happened to turn up at the park around the same time and began passing a ball around.
“It was clumsy and not wilful… we’re not happy, they’re not happy and they are contrite,” he told Radio New Zealand.
“We are sorry, it was something we did not envisage.”
Speaking on his Instagram account, Mo’unga this morning apologised for not being a role model but insisted that the report didn’t tell the whole story.
“As many of you would’ve seen yesterday, there was footage of me picking up a ball and chucking it back to some of the other lads,” he said, speaking directly to the camera in an Instagram story.
“I just want to speak about what happened and clear a few things up. Some things that I think are important to know and also some things that was forgot [sic] to be mentioned on the news last night.
The New Zealand Herald shows Richie Mo’unga and teammates in action. Photos: Instagram, Newshub.Source:NZ Herald
“I want to start off by saying this was not an organised training. There were no communications before hand saying that we should train in this park together. It was by coincidence that I rocked up and they were there training.
“In fact, they were there just finishing up their session. My local park is that local park and our training schedules are the same so we run on the same days. It just so happened to be it was the same time.”
Mo’unga continued to outline what happened, which he says was a coincidental meeting where he eventually broke the bubble on accident.
“As I arrived I [talked] to the boys from afar, asking how they were and got ready for my running session. As I had finished one of my running sessions, the ball had been kicked over and instinctively I went and picked the ball up and threw it back to them.
“I will say that was the only interaction I had with them apart from talking to them. It was something that was so instinctive for me to do – to pick the ball up and throw it back to them. I didn’t think twice about it. It was something that happened fast.
All Blacks stars were among the busted Crusaders.Source:Twitter
“It’s something that I’ve learnt that even [though it was] my natural instincts, it’s something I need to be more careful of and I will be more careful of.”
The 25-year-old then apologised for his actions saying it “doesn’t excuse” his behaviour.
“It doesn’t excuse the fact that there were two other bubbles that were passing around the ball together and it doesn’t excuse the fact that I can be better and a better role model in telling the boys that ‘Hey look, you guys are done. You should head home now’. And I am sorry for that.
“I want to thank all my friends and my supporters and all my family and people that know me well enough to know that I’m not out there on purpose.”
Robinson earlier condemned the players for not following the rules.
“The lockdown rules are very simple — if you exercise, it must be solitary or with those you live with,” said Robinson.
“Some of the Crusaders players have not followed these rules and that is unacceptable. We have reminded everyone involved in rugby that they must abide by the New Zealand Government Covid-19 guidelines and this situation must not happen again.”
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