Aaron Smith has had an early reminder of the standards that go along with being an All Black, the young Manawatu halfback benched for Saturday's test against the Springboks for breaking a team recovery protocol.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen confirmed this morning at the team hotel in Dunedin Smith had been ineligible for a starting role at Dunedin 's covered Forsyth Barr Stadium because of a breach in discipline following last Saturday's test victory over Argentina in the capital.
"Unfortunately for Aaron Smith we've got a strong focus on recovery and he broke a protocol in that area last week, so that made him ineligible for selection for the first XV," said Hansen in announcing a starting lineup featuring four changes.
Veteran No 9 Piri Weepu replaces the 23-year-old at halfback, while the other switches from Wellington see hometown boy Andrew Hore get the start at hooker, Canterbury's Sam Whitelock given the nod in the second row ahead of Brodie Retallick and standout Chiefs loosie Liam Messam restored at No 6.
But it's Smith's demotion, and the reasons for the six-test rookie's relegation, that is the chief talking point ahead of the opening clash for the year against the Springboks.
Hansen refused to spell out whether Smith's indiscretion had been alcohol-related, or involved him breaking curfews.
"There's nothing to elaborate on," said the first-year head coach. "He just broke a protocol that's a non-negotiable and the consequence is you don't start in the XV if you break it."
It's understood Smith's infraction involved him arriving back to the team hotel after Saturday night's game past the team-imposed curfew.
Hansen said it was "irrelevant" whether Smith would have started without his protocol breach. "He broke them, so we don't need to go there. The other fella played pretty good last week as well, and we're very fortunate we've got two good halfbacks.
"We addressed it as a team. The leadership group set the protocol and management drive it."
Asked if Smith, who's been so impressive throughout his freshman campaign, had been disappointed by his actions, the coach could only nod in agreement.
"I don't think he wanted to give up his jersey lightly. It's been dealt with, it's not something that's a major but it was a non-negotiable. It's like your family - if you have rules there are consequences if you break them. That's the way we're living, and we make no excuse for that."
- Fairfax Media
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