All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has confirmed champion halfback Aaron Smith will play in Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup opener against the Wallabies despite allegations about his airport “toilet tryst” scandal being made public.
A Daily Mail Australia report claims Smith may have lied to his All Blacks bosses over the incident with a woman that saw him sent home from an All Blacks tour of South Africa and suspended last October.
Smith made a teary apology before flying home but returned to the All Blacks squad for their spring tour to the United States and Europe.
The Wallabies are unlikely to beat New Zealand on Saturday, but must show more heart than in last year’s fixture in Sydney if they are to keep the Australian rugby heartland interested, Greg Growden writes.
Western Force and former NRL winger Curtis Rona will make his Wallabies debut against the All Blacks in Bledisloe I in Sydney on Saturday night.
Fronting media in Sydney on Thursday after naming his team, Hansen declined to discuss the claim which stemmed from alleged text messages between Smith and the woman.
“Righto, well we better deal with the elephant in the room first – Mr Smith,” said Hansen.
“Obviously the incident happened last year. We dealt with it and we feel that we dealt with it decisively.
“There’s nothing more that I can add to that but if there is anything else that needs to be spoken about, it will come from the New Zealand Rugby Union themselves.”
Hansen insisted Smith would not be distracted in Saturday’s Test at ANZ Stadium.
“He (Smith) is in a great head space in that he knows that he’s dealt with this issue and done the things that he needs to do around it and he’s ready to play,” said Hansen.
Nor does Cheika believe the controversy will undermine the world champions’ preparations or performance in the Rugby Championship opener.
“On the field is where the game is played,” Cheika said.
“On the field is where the contest is, not off the field and the distractions have to come on the field.”
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Hansen was agitated at also being peppered about the infamous bugging affair, taking offence to claims Cheika confronted him about a perceived inference that the Wallabies had planted the listening device at the All Blacks team hotel before last year’s Bledisloe opener in Sydney.
“I don’t know if he ‘confronted’ me. We had a chat in Japan and I made it clear to him that we didn’t highlight and say (they) were a candidate,” Hansen said.
“There’s only X amount of people that would take that opportunity.
“Whether we like it or not, if you found a bug in your team room, we’d have been one of those people.
“We certainly haven’t named them as that and we never will because we don’t know who put it there.”
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