Ripia quits to tackle gambling

2012-01-12 08:13

Perth - Flyhalf Willie Ripia has quit the Western Force and returned home to New Zealand to tackle a gambling problem, the Super Rugby side said.

Ripia, who has played for the New Zealand Maori, resigned from the Australia side on Tuesday after the Force investigated "a serious breach of team protocols".

"Willie has returned to New Zealand to be supported by his family in Rotorua as he works through serious issues relating to gambling," a statement from Ripia's management said.

"Willie will be in a supportive family environment while he engages professional support to help him address his gambling problem.

"Willie is devastated with the impact gambling has had on him and is determined to work through his problem. He is deeply remorseful for his actions and the damage and disruption they have had on those close to him and the Western Force."

The 26-year-old made seven appearances for the Perth-based side last season as a foreign development player, which meant he could have eventually played for Australia.

Super Rugby teams submitted their squad lists for the 2012 season on December 31 but the Force have been granted permission by the Australian Rugby Union to name a replacement for Ripia, who had joined from the Hurricanes.

The Force, who finished 12th last year, begin their campaign away to the Brumbies on February 24 and coach Richard Graham was confident his squad could handle the exit.

"James Stannard proved more than capable in the number 10 jersey at the back end of the 2011 season and the playing group have a lot of confidence in his control and ability," Graham said on the team's website.

"Obviously this has been a disappointing outcome for the squad but our main focus is moving forward and continuing our preparations for the 2012 season."