Superstar All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith has been ruled out of Saturday’s Test against the Wallabies after being found guilty of serious misconduct.
A New Zealand Rugby Union disciplinary hearing issued Smith with a formal warning and said he would voluntarily stand down from the third Bledisloe Cup clash at Eden Park following his involvement in an incident with a woman in a Christchurch airport toilet.
Smith had already missed the all-conquering All Blacks’ final Rugby Championship win over South Africa in Durban when he returned home after the incident was made public and became a national scandal.
It means TJ Perenara is set to retain the starting halfback role against the Wallabies, who will also be without their leading halfback after Will Genia returned to his French club this week leaving the role to Nick Phipps.
Smith’s case was heard over two hours.
A NZRU statement said it was found that in light of the impact on the reputation of All Blacks jersey and commercial partners, Smith’s actions amounted to serious misconduct.
“It’s important to note that as an employment matter, it is not usual to comment publicly on proceedings,” said disciplinary panel chairman Neil Sorensen.
“However, both Aaron and his legal representative, and New Zealand Rugby acknowledge that in the circumstances, there is a need to make some public comment.
“Aaron presented himself as genuine, honest and incredibly remorseful.
“We have also taken into account the fact that the very public nature of this incident, has had a significant impact on him personally.”