Highlanders drop All Blacks star amid assault investigation
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: All Blacks loose forward Shannon Frizell has been omitted from the Highlanders’ Super Rugby Trans-Tasman opener against the Queensland Reds amid a police investigation into an alleged assault at a Dunedin nightspot.
Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said the investigation involving Frizell was a “distraction” for the team but his omission was not punitive.
“I think it is important for us all to remember at this time, these are all allegations and no charges have been laid,” Clark told New Zealand media.
“However, these have been a distraction for the player, and the team. And in the best interests of everyone concerned, we are going to omit Shannon from the team this week.”
New Zealand media reported Frizell was alleged to have been involved in an assault on a woman at a bar early on Sunday.
Police were not called to the incident and were only notified of the allegations later on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Frizell made his All Blacks debut in 2018 and has played 13 Tests.
The blindside flank started in four of the All Blacks’ five Tests last year and is expected to be a part of Ian Foster’s squad this season.
Clark said the Highlanders had completed their own investigation into the incident and had left the issue with police.
He said he would be “surprised” if police laid charges on Frizell.
Highlanders: 15 Sam Gilbert, 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Hugh Renton, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ethan De Groot, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Tim O’Malley, 23 Ngatugnane Punivai.
Date: Friday, May 14
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19.05 (17.05 AEST; 07.05 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: James Doleman, Angus Maybe
TMO: Mike Fraser