AAP Rugby

Solomona ban heavy says NZ coach Maguire

By AAP Newswire

New Zealand coach Michael Maguire has described the three-Test ban on Nelson Asofa-Solomona as "heavy" and vowed to support the embattled star.

The Kiwis will be without Asofa-Solomona for the rest of this year's international schedule following his involvement in the Bali brawl a fortnight ago.

The Melbourne front-rower was also slapped with a suspended $15,000 fine, despite claims he was defending Storm teammate Suliasi Vunivalu.

Maguire was reluctant to discuss the topic on their first day of preparations for Friday's Test against the Kangaroos, but sympathised with his banned prop.

"I feel for Nelson," Maguire told AAP on Monday.

"Nelson is extremely passionate about his jersey and I'm going to support Nelson because we've built a really strong group.

"It's unfortunate he's in this situation, (but) whether you think it's right or wrong, the decision's been made so all I can do is support him.

"No doubt at some stage, he'll be back in this Kiwi jersey."

Asked whether he thought the punishment was fair, Maguire said: "That's not a decision for me. But do I think it's heavy? Yes."

Maguire suggested it was difficult to blame Asofa-Solomona for retaliating to an alleged assault on Vunivalu by a patron at a Balinese nightclub.

He also said Asofa-Solomona's actions showed the strength of the Storm club.

"People have got to understand that when you're a football team, it is a family. They are like your brothers," Maguire said.

"If you could imagine one of your family members in a similar situation, that's what a football team is.

"Until you're actually in a situation like that, only you can decide how you'd act.

"I gotta say though, to support his teammate just goes to show the strength of what that team that he's currently in is all about."

Asofa-Solomona's absence leaves a gaping hole in the Kiwis forward pack, which will be led by Sydney Roosters star Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Adam Blair and Isaiah Papali'i have also been added to the initial 22-man squad.