New Zealand scrum-half Aaron Smith has publicly apologised to his partner, family, his All Black team-mates and supporters after being handed a one-game suspension on Wednesday for “breaching team standards regarding behaviour”.
The number nine was seen entering a toilet in Christchurch airport with a female companion and team management acted quickly by withdrawing the half back from selection for this weekend’s encounter with South Africa and immediately sending him home to New Zealand.
The move was supported by New Zealand Rugby, who confirmed that Smith will now face a misconduct hearing following the incident. Chief Executive Steve Tew commented: “This was really bad decision-making by Aaron which reflects poorly on him, and on the team.”
On his arrival back home, a tearful Smith made a brief statement to the waiting media.
“I’ve made a huge mistake, a huge error in judgement. My behaviour is unacceptable and if you could respect me and my partner in this situation… I’m just trying to get home to deal with this.”
You can watch the full video here.
It’s not yet known if Smith will face a further suspension but his absence from the All Blacks squad in South Africa has seen TJ Perenara named at half back alongside Beauden Barrett for their next Rugby Championship fixture, with Tawera Kerr-Barlow included on the bench.
It’s the first time Perenara has started successive Tests and coach Steve Hansen is fully confident in the ability of the Hurricanes’ man telling reporters:
“He’s a world-class player and you want to be able to play him [Smith], but TJ has had three good stints there now. He played really well when he came off the bench against Argentina, a good portion of the game against South Africa in Christchurch and then got a start against Argentina and played well.
“It will just be business as usual. We expect him to play to his high standards and TKB will back him up.”
In his statement, Tew outlined just how seriously the matter is being taken, adding: “We are taking action to improve the culture of our game and are about to embark on an independent review of respect and responsibility in our professional player environment. We have drafted the terms of reference and are currently talking to prospective panel members. We will provide an update on this shortly.”
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