The Rugby Championship kicks off this Saturday as New Zealand play their first Test match since the Lions tour, when they take on Australia in the Bledisloe Cup fixture.
However, just hours before kick-off, the All Blacks announced that Jerome Kaino has returned home “to deal with a personal matter” after reports in the Aussie media:
This will be sure to disrupt the All Blacks as they look to retain the title in the four team competition – which also includes South Africa and Argentina.
In a press release, New Zealand Rugby said;
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) can confirm that Jerome Kaino has returned home to deal with a personal matter following the publication of a story in the Australian media this morning.
Information published concerning Aaron Smith in New Zealand media today is also a new development. NZR cannot comment at this stage on what are both personal matters, but we feel for all of those affected.
“We certainly understand that our game and our players are under public scrutiny and these latest stories are concerning. As an employer, we will take some time to assess this. While NZR does not wish to comment on individual behaviour, it is clear that this is really hurting rugby, all the people concerned, our fans and supporters. We take these issues very seriously, and are also mindful that these issues affect people with families and loved ones,” said NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew.
“At a time when we are grappling with our cultural reputation, the Respect and Responsibility Review, which is currently under way, is even more important. The Review is being presented to the NZR Board this month and we are looking to make that public sometime in September.”
Kaino wasn’t in the matchday 23 but regardless, this is far from ideal preparation for the All Blacks ahead of Saturday’s championship opener in Sydney.
Liam Squire is in the blindside flanker role that Kaino usually occupies as New Zealand look to get their focus to on the field matters, starting with Australia.
The other player mentioned in the statement, Aaron Smith, is due to start the game.