Wellington: All Blacks scrum-half Aaron Smith has “voluntarily” stood down from Saturday’s final Bledisloe Cup match against Australia and received an official warning from New Zealand Rugby as fall-out from his airport toilet tryst continued on Monday.
Smith was suspended for the All Blacks’ final Rugby Championship match against South Africa a week ago and flew home following embarrassing revelations of a liaison with a woman in a disabled toilet at Christchurch airport last month.
The 27-year-old, who tearily apologised to his partner and teammates after the scandal sparked a media storm in rugby-mad New Zealand, faced a two-hour disciplinary hearing on Monday.
The hearing’s panel, chaired by NZR general manager Rugby Neil Sorensen, concluded his actions amounted to “serious misconduct” given the impact on “the reputation of the All Blacks jersey and the commercial partners.” “He will voluntarily stand down from assembling with the All Blacks for this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup test match,” NZR said in a statement, adding that Smith would also forfeit his “selection fees”.
Smith, a regular for the All Blacks in the last three seasons, has earned 54 caps since making his debut in 2012 and was a part of the World Cup-winning team in England last year.
NZR said he was committed to getting the support “he needs to deal with personal issues and to work on his relationship with his partner.” “Aaron presented himself as genuine, honest and incredibly remorseful,” Sorensen added.
“We have also taken into account the fact that the very public nature of this incident, has had a significant impact on him personally.” Smith’s continued absence means TJ Perenara will be expected to hold onto the number nine shirt for the match at Eden Park following his dominant two-try performance in the 57-15 demolition of South Africa in Durban.
The All Blacks have already retained the Bledisloe Cup, the annual trophy contested with Australia, after taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series with victory in the second match in Wellington in August.
The world champions are bidding to extend their winning streak to 18 games, a record for Tier One rugby nations.
Meanwhile, former All Black great Dan Carter has been cleared of doping following a probe implicating the star fly-half and two other Racing 92 players, L’Equipe sports paper said Monday.
Carter “has been cleared and was notified on Saturday, “following an investigation by the medical commission of the French Rugby Federation, the newspaper said.
Carter along with fellow former All Black Joe Rokococo and Argentinian winger Juan Imhoff were questioned by the commission last week after testing positive for corticosteroids following last season’s Top 14 final in which Racing beat Toulon 29-21. Carter and Kokoromiko contributing 20 points between them.
L’Equipe said that Rokococo and Imhoff “will probably have been informed of the same outcome”.
However, Racing said Monday neither the players nor the club had been informed of any decision as yet.
The commission ruling is subject to appeal by the players or the French anti-doping agency AFLD which ordered the original tests in which traces were found of corticosteroids, which can be used against pain, inflammation or allergies.
The substance is illegal when taken orally or injected in either the blood or muscle, unless accompanied by a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE).
Racing has denied all wrongdoing, saying the substance was administered by an “authorised method” several days before the Top 14 final and there was no need for a TUE.