DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - New Zealand have suspended scrumhalf Aaron Smith for Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa after he was spotted going into a disabled toilet with a woman at Christchurch Airport last month.
New Zealand Rugby said in a statement on Wednesday that Smith had “failed to meet the standards” expected of players.
The 27-year-old will face a misconduct hearing when the team returns to New Zealand.
“This was really bad decision-making by Aaron which reflects poorly on him, and on the team,” New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said.
Coach Steve Hansen said that Smith had admitted an inappropriate liaison with a woman in a public toilet while with the team.
”On the Sunday in Christchurch after the South Africa test at the Christchurch Airport, Aaron and a female friend were seen to enter the disabled toilets,” Hansen told reporters on Wednesday.
“On our arrival in South Africa, we were informed of this. I had a conversation with Aaron on Tuesday and he confirmed the story.
”As a result the leadership group met and were unanimous in the fact that the behaviour was not acceptable and as a result a one-match suspension was put in place.
“Clearly Aaron is bitterly disappointed in his behaviour and feels he has let the team down. But he also feels bitterly disappointed in letting his family and his partner down.
“He has requested to go home to deal with the personal matters that have come with this incident and we have been only too happy to support him in that.”
World Cup winner Smith has been a regular for the All Blacks in the last three seasons and has earned 54 caps since making his debut in 2012.
He would have been a near certainty to start in New Zealand’s final Rugby Championship clash against South Africa in Durban on Saturday.
The All Blacks have already clinched this year’s Southern Hemisphere crown.
Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis