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NZ rugby to tackle sexism with creation of review panel

Aaron Smith of the All Blacks is tackled during the Rugby Championship match Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rugby player Aaron Smith was found guilty of misconduct after being seen entering a toilet cubicle with a woman

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is to form a panel to tackle sexism, after a series of scandals involving players.

The "respect and responsibility review" will seek to change the "macho" culture of the country's national sport, the sporting body said.

One of the most contentious episodes saw a woman hired to strip assaulted at a team party earlier this year.

NZR was heavily criticised for its response to this and several other incidents that have sparked rows.

This season itself, star scrum-half Aaron Smith was at the centre of a scandal after he was seen entering a toilet cubicle with a woman at Christchurch Airport. He was later found guilty of misconduct.

"In the same way that rugby seeks to do better on the field, we must constantly seek ways to improve off the field," NZR chief executive Steve Tew said.

The scandals that tainted New Zealand's national sport

'Culture of respect'

The review will consider what further action needs to be taken "to build a culture of respect and responsibility in the professional rugby environment", according to NZR chairman Brent Impey.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The country's national sport has become mired in scandal

A nine person panel will be headed by Law Society president Kathryn Beck.

"I think it was quite deliberate that a woman was made chair of this panel," said Ms Beck.

"It is a very clear focus on women and the impact of the respect and responsibility within the rugby community on women, both within the community and externally."

The panel will also comprise of Olympic athlete Lisa Carrington, former All Black athletes Michael Jones and Keven Mealamu and Sport NZ board member Jackie Barron amongst others.

The panel will provide the New Zealand Rugby board with a preliminary report next April, with panel recommendations expected to come in May.

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