New Zealand Rugby has apologised for a tweet marking International Women's Day that failed to acknowledge the world champion Black Ferns.


The tweet, on the official All Blacks Twitter account, featured a photo of Fijian-born flyer Sevu Reece, who pleaded guilty to assaulting his female partner in 2018.

The caption read: "Forever grateful to all the women in our lives that allow us to play the game we love. Partners, mothers, daughters, doctors, physios, referees, administrators and fans. Appreciate you every day."

It has drawn criticism as being "tone deaf'' for omitting mention of the Black Ferns, who have won the Women's Rugby World Cup a record five times, and so relegating women to a supporting role, while featuring a male player who assaulted his partner.

Reece was discharged without conviction after a judge ruled there were mitigating factors in the case.

Sevu Reece of the All Blacks celebrates a try. Getty Sevu Reece of the All Blacks celebrates a try.
"NZR and our Teams in Black celebrated International Women's Day across all of our digital channels and our intent was to portray the many roles women have in our game,'' a NZR spokesperson said on Wednesday.

"We didn't get it right and we apologise our entire rugby whānau are so proud of our Black Ferns and all our wāhine, in everything that they do on and off the pitch."

The original tweet sparked an immediate backlash on social media, with some users calling it "tone deaf" and urging the All Blacks social media team to take it down. The post was still on Twitter after the apology for it was issued.

"You have an INCREDIBLE women's team to support - why are you instead focusing on the male support 'system", asked Stella Mills.

"Happy International Women's Day! Let's take this opportunity to celebrate our wonderful men, because they don't get enough credit", wrote Will Owen, with a hint of sarcasm.

Former England international Kat Merchant joined the chorus of criticism, writing: "Black ferns are current world champions yet this post chose to ignore their exsistence [sic] and instead thank the women who 'allow' men to play. Also they used a player who has plead [sic] guilty to domestic abuse."

"The Black Ferns are 5 times world champions. This would have been a wonderful opportunity to throw support behind them. But nah, they decided it was better to just talk about the women who help the men's successes," added Twitter user Kay.

"Imagine writing this post for International Women's Day, not including a single Black Fern, and instead including Sevu Reece," said Hugo Gordon.

"Awks. Didn't fancy supporting ya women's team," offered former English cricketer Sarah Taylor.

"This is probably the most tone deaf tweet I think I've ever seen," @JackBish13 wrote. "To include Sevu Reece on an International Women's Day post and to not even post anything about the Black Ferns."

"Don't know where to begin with this. Basically 'women are here to support men' rather than achieve success in their own right, like, idk, in women's rugby so out of touch!", added @John71381259.

The Black Ferns did share an International Women's Day post of their own from their official Twitter account, featuring pictures of captain Les Elder, Maia Roos, Michaela Blyde and Niall Williams.

The Black Ferns shared stories of the women in their lives that inspire them "to be the people and players they are."

Several Black Ferns were contacted by Stuff yesterday but did not want to comment.

In 2019, then All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said NZ Rugby was working hard with Reece and others in top-level rugby, around domestic violence.

"He's come into an environment in the Crusaders where they've put a lot of things around him that have helped educate him, they've helped him understand that to be a good person you have to do certain things, and by doing that he's shown a lot of remorse for what he's done," Hansen said in 2019.

"He's been actively trying to better himself and also, when he comes into our environment we already have a policy that better people make better All Blacks so we continue that with each and every individual we've got."

The All Blacks' post on Tuesday also included a photo of halfback Aaron Smith and his partner. In 2016 the All Blacks suspended Smith for one game and he made the decision to travel home from South Africa, after witnesses saw him entering a public toilet with a woman at Christchurch Airport.

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