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Ripia gets nod for Maori All Blacks tour

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Willie Ripia left the Force under a cloud before the start of the 2012 Super Rugby season.

Willie Ripia left the Force under a cloud before the start of the 2012 Super Rugby season. Photo: Getty Images

WELLINGTON: Problem gambler Willie Ripia has been named in the Maori All Blacks for their short UK tour 10 months after quitting the Western Force amid theft allegations.

The 27-year-old former Hurricanes and NZ Maori rep is the sole out-and-out five-eighth in the squad who will play Leicester, an RFU Championship 15 and Canada next month.

Ripia, who has undergone counselling for gambling addiction, quit the Force in January after reportedly 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 NZ Maori campaign (now Maori All Blacks) 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.

New Zealand Maori tour squad:

Backs: Trent Renata, Andre Taylor, Kurt Baker, Kade Poki, Declan O'Donnell, Charlie Ngatai, Jackson Willison, Tim Batemen, Willie Ripia, Jamiston 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.

AAP

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