New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden has been dropped from their squad after he missed the flight to Argentina.
Sky Sports reports that the 25-year-old did not meet up with the team, after going on a late-night drinking session in Auckland.
Cruden will be replaced in the starting XV by Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade promoted to the bench and Canterbury’s Tom Taylor being called up to the squad.
The All Blacks face Argentina on Saturday, before coming up against South Africa in their final match of this year’s tournament, the following week.
New Zealand lead the way at the top of the table with three wins and a draw, six points ahead of the Springboks.
They have yet to lose a game in the competition since its inauguration in 2012, following the introduction of Argentina to the teams from the Tri Nations tournament, so it should be business as usual for the All Blacks.
Even without Cruden in the side, it would appear that the All Blacks will not struggle, especially when they face the Pumas at the Estadio Ciudad La Plata in Buenos Aires.
Argentina have yet to win a match in the three years they have been in the Rugby Championship, with just one draw against South Africa in 2012, with New Zealand needing just a victory over the South American side to secure their third title.
Barrett has already faced the Pumas in this year’s competition, starting at fly-half and helping them to a 28-9 victory earlier this month, before being replaced by Slade.
The 23-year-old Hurricanes star also came on for Cruden in the South Africa tie a week later, kicking a penalty to secure the win.
Tom Taylor hasn’t played for New Zealand since last November, in a 54-6 victory over Japan, but will be hoping for some game time in the last match of the competition, should the All Blacks ensure top spot against Argentina.
Out of character
Speaking on Cruden’s omission from the side for the upcoming fixtures, coach Steve Hansen believes it is not like the Chiefs half-back to act like he did.
“It’s obviously disappointing and out of character. He’s extremely disappointed in himself. He understands there has to be a consequence for his actions,” the former Wales coach told Sky Sports.
“Once we get this out of the way then he will be coming back into the group when we go to Brisbane.”
After the Rugby Championship, New Zealand kick-off their autumn tour, beginning with a trip to Australia, before moving onto America, Great Britain and Samoa.
Yet, there was still a word of warning to the rest of the squad that they do not tolerate this kind of behaviour.
“The team is well aware that when we don’t get it right there is a consequence and he’s paid the price for that,” said Hansen.
Cruden was also disappointed with himself, and apologised to his team, family and the New Zealand public.
I have no excuses. I accept full responsibility for my actions and the penalty of missing the next two games, and I will work with New Zealand Rugby to undertake any other disciplinary action to work through this situation,” said the 35-time All Blacks star.
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