An emotional Aaron Smith has apologised for “a huge mistake” that has resulted in him heading home from the All Blacks’ tour of South Africa.
The 27-year-old halfback was stood down from this weekend’s Rugby Championship Test against South Africa in Durban after it emerged he had been involved in a tryst with a woman in Christchurch airport toilet last month.
“I’ve made a huge mistake, a huge error in judgement,” he said at the team hotel.
“I would firstly like to say a huge sorry to my partner Teagan, her family, my family.
“I’m also sorry to my teammates, NZRU and the New Zealand fans. My behaviour was unacceptable.”
Smith came close to breaking down as he added: “If you could respect me and my partner in this situation – I’m just trying to get home to deal with this.”
The revelation of the incident overshadowed the naming of the All Blacks team.
Coach Steve Hansen said Smith was spotted entering a toilet cubicle with a female the day after the side beat South Africa.
Hansen said Smith accepted his behaviour was not of All Blacks standard and the punishment for the breach of team protocols was decided by team leaders.
Smith had asked to leave the tour, a request backed by team management.
Hansen said he was told of the incident after arriving in South Africa and Smith admitted the veracity of the story.
It is not the first time Smith has courted controversy.
In 2012 he was benched for a Test against South Africa in Dunedin for breaking a team curfew and two years a later a naked selfie of him was posted online.
NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew said Smith would face a misconduct hearing in New Zealand.