An internal investigation has cleared Crusaders duo Richie Mo’unga and George Bridge of any wrongdoing during their tour to South Africa in May.
Bridge was alleged to have been part of a group that hurled homophobic slurs towards a patron at a McDonald’s in Cape Town, following the Crusaders’ draw with the Stormers at Newlands.
In a separate incident, Mo’unga was accused of spitting beer at people at a nightspot earlier in the week.
An internal investigation was held following the squad’s return to Christchurch. A joint statement by New Zealand Rugby and the Crusaders stated that both allegations were not upheld.
‘NZR’s investigation has found that the allegations against Bridge were not upheld,’ NZR head of rugby Nigel Cass said. ‘With regard to Richie Mo’unga, the NZR investigation found that the allegations also could not be substantiated. Given the seriousness of these allegations, and the potential consequences, we needed to be confident that what was alleged, actually took place, and we weren’t.
Cass said Mo’unga acknowledged he had been drinking on the night when the complainant approached him with an allegation to which he responded in a way that was poor, but which NZR accepted was out of character.
‘The way he responded to the complainant was inconsistent with NZR values and expectations, and he has acknowledged this and subsequently apologised.
‘We feel that he has learned some valuable lessons and we are satisfied that he will not put himself in the same position again in future. We have made our expectations around behaviour clear to him. He has been reminded of his obligation to be a role model for the sport at all times, especially when approached by members of the public – even in a social setting.’
Regardless, the Crusaders have been asked to urgently review their protocols for team post-match activity.
‘We will learn from this experience and use it as an opportunity for improvement,’ Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge said. ‘For us, this is not just about two members of our team; we all need to take some responsibility for this and learn from it. That is why we are reviewing our policies around alcohol and social media use to ascertain if our existing policies are robust enough and make changes if needed. If we apply the same growth mindset off the field as we do on the field, we’ll all be better people as a result.’
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