Cruden carries 'burden of shame and disappointment'

Aaron Cruden has spoken for the first time since his axing from the All Blacks' tour to Argentina and South Africa, saying he carries the "burden of shame and disappointment."

Aaron Cruden at the Zookeepers Son in Royal Oak

The Chiefs first-five has been replaced by Tom Taylor in the travelling party after failing to board the team's flight for La Plata on Sunday morning following a night out with team-mates at an Auckland bar.

Cruden has returned to his home in Hamilton, where both he and agent Bruce Sharrock prepared the following statement:

"On Saturday night, whilst out for an informal dinner in Auckland, I made a poor decision regarding the limits of my alcohol intake. This has resulted in the unacceptable action of me being absent from All Blacks assembly on Sunday morning and thus missing the team flight to Argentina.

"I am deeply embarrassed by this lack of judgement and have never been more disappointed in myself. I have not only let myself down, but most importantly, I have let my team down.

"I carry the burden of shame and disappointment and I am deeply apologetic to my team, to my family, and also the New Zealand public.

"I have no excuses. I have been working really hard over the past few years at gaining respect on the field as well as off the field and am devastated I have dropped my own high personal standards, as well as the standards set by New Zealand Rugby.

"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."

All Blacks unaware of reasons for Cruden's absence - Tew

New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew was unable to shed any light on the reasons behind Aaron Cruden's absence from the team's flight to Argentina.

On Sunday morning the All Blacks assembled at Auckland International Airport to depart for La Plata minus Cruden, who is understood to have 'stayed out later' than the group of team-mates he was with during a night out at an Auckland bar.

Senior players Conrad Smith, Kieran Read, Aaron Smith, Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane were pictured with Cruden at The Zoo Keeper's Son in Royal Oak but are understood to have returned to the team's hotel 'at a reasonable time,' according to Tew.

Cruden was unable to be reached and Tew said he could not confirm whether he was staying at the team's hotel situated at the airport.

"Aaron has realised he has made a pretty dreadful mistake and is incredibly disappointed in himself," said Tew.

"We've stood him down, told him to go back to Hamilton and sort himself out. We'll know deal with the detail behind it over the next couple of days."

Tew, who was outside cell phone coverage at the time, said All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen and mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka were the first to speak to Cruden but insisted they did not yet know the details around why he missed the crucial assemble time.

"I'm not going to speculate around why he was late because we don’t know," Tew added.

"He did go out with a group. The rest of them got home at a reasonable time; he didn't."

We're moving on after punishing Cruden - Hansen

Steve Hansen says the All Blacks are tighter and even more focussed following Aaron Cruden's drinking episode.

The All Blacks coach says Cruden has been dropped from the squad for the away leg of the Rugby Championship after he went out drinking in Auckland and missed the team's flight to Argentina on Sunday morning.

When asked if Cruden's actions would serve as a distraction to other players, he replied: "As silly as it might sound, the adversity that's created by one of the players having a mistake, and in this case it's Cruds, usually brings the group tighter and focuses them really well."

Hansen said he and the All Blacks had talked about the incident and "we've now put it behind us and we're getting on with it".

"As you do in your family you deal with the problem, you dish out the punishment and then you move on, and that's what we've done, and there's no point looking over our shoulder, we're here now, we're looking forward to playing Argentina," he said.

It emerged today that Cruden went to the Zookeeper's in Royal Oak after the All Blacks' flight was delayed on Saturday.

Photos have emerged with Cruden at the Zookeeper's with fellow All Blacks Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock. The photos were posted on the bar's Facebook page yesterday.

The bar's owners, Lindy and Dave Catchpole, confirmed to ONE News that around eight All Blacks had come in for dinner on Saturday night.

They said the group averaged around two to three beers each, posed for photos with staff, and had gone by midnight.

They confirmed that the women in the photos with Cruden on their Facebook page are staff members and said they did not party with Cruden later.

The All Blacks earlier tweeted that they were "extremely disappointed at Aaron's actions which are out of character" and said he was "embarrassed at his actions."

Beauden Barrett will now most likely start the Test against the Pumas in La Plata on Sunday morning, with Colin Slade providing cover from the bench.

Tom Taylor has been called into the All Blacks squad and will replace Cruden in the 31-strong touring party.

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