Chiefs' Lauaki charged with assault
March 10, 2010
Sione Lauaki was set to return from a two-match ban before he was charged © Getty Images
Sione Lauaki has been left out of the Chiefs Super 14 side and will face disciplinary action from the NZRU after being charged with assault over an incident in a Hamilton bar last week. Lauaki, 28, is due to appear in Hamilton District Court on March 23.
The Chiefs gave the blockbusting No.8 their backing, but coach Ian Foster has left him out of the side to play the Crusaders in Hamilton on Friday night.
"I've spoken to Sione and we've both decided that he won't be involved in this game in light of the week that he has had," he said. "We will fully support him over the next few weeks and what he has to go through."
Foster believed the rest of his squad had been able to avoid being distracted by the issue.
"It's something that you never want to happen, but it's a reality of life that things get chucked at you as a team and we've just got to learn how to deal with it," he said. "I think the team has dealt with it really well. It's been a good process we've gone through."
The charge against Lauaki arose from an alleged incident at the Coyotes Bar and Restaurant in the early hours of last Friday.
Lauaki has been in trouble with the law before. In 2006, he was offered police diversion after admitting assaulting a Hamilton security officer. Last year, he underwent an anger management course after appearing in court for damaging an Auckland motel unit.
Lauaki has had a chequered start to this year's Super 14. He was Foster's surprise choice as stand-in skipper while regular captain Mils Muliaina was given the first three matches off. However, he missed the Chiefs' season-opening victory over the Sharks in Durban after a cut on an arm led to an abscess.
He played against the Lions the following weekend, but was hit by a two-match suspension for a dangerous tackle in the 72-65 win in Johannesburg. The ban ended last weekend, making him eligible for selection against the Crusaders.
He has played 17 tests, but his last was in 2008 and he admitted last year that he believed his All Blacks days were over.
The Chiefs have made two changes to their starting 15 to face the Crusaders, with lock Craig Clarke back from injury and hooker Aled de Malmanche coming off the bench for Hika Elliott, who strained a hamstring in training.
Foster said Clarke's speedy recovery from a groin strain suffered against the Lions in round two was the result of the good job the former Crusader did with medical staff.
"This has ensured his return at the best case scenario we gave him of three weeks, rather than the longer, but expected four to five weeks," he said.
The Chiefs, who are equal with competition leaders the Bulls on 15 points, are backing up from a home loss to the Reds last Friday night.
The defeat 18-23, which came after they had raced into an early 15-0 lead, followed a short turnaround from their successful trip to South Africa and Australia, and Foster said he was looking for a step up in performance against the Crusaders.
"I expect a real lift in our intensity, back to the levels we achieved in the first couple of weeks," he said. "Certainly there were some individuals last week that didn't get to the level they would have wanted."
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