NEW PLYMOUTH (New Zealand) • New Zealand Rugby has been ordered to clean up its act after the publication of an independent review uncovered issues with alcohol, sexism and a sense of entitlement among players.
The country's governing body commissioned a "respect and responsibility review" last November after a number of off-field incidents, which included Aaron Smith's tryst with a woman in a disabled toilet at Christchurch airport.
Players from Chiefs, the Super Rugby franchise, were also reprimanded after a stripper claimed that she was touched inappropriately at an end-of-season function.
The panel investigated 36 cases of misconduct over the past four years, and alcohol and drug use were found to be factors in more than half of them.
The misconduct incidents included violent behaviour towards team-mates and coaches and a homophobic slur that was overheard by the public.
The report said that incidents "prior to and in 2016 began to undermine rugby's place" in New Zealand society and "no longer reflected contemporary values and expected behaviours".
The panel, including former All Blacks Michael Jones and Keven Mealamu, made more than 100 recommendations, with six key changes - mainly leadership, respect and gender equality - to be implemented in the next two years.
Steve Tew, the chief executive of New Zealand Rugby, admitted urgent action was required to repair the country's damaged reputation.
He added that secondary schools, where the professional players of tomorrow are currently being shaped, would be targeted.
The All Blacks also talked up Argentina as a dangerous foe yesterday on the eve of their Rugby Championship Test in New Plymouth, dismissing the South Americans' form slump over the past two years.
After rising to fifth in the world rankings when they made the 2015 World Cup semi-finals, Los Pumas have since dropped to 10th - despite a regular diet of Rugby Championship matches against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
"I don't take any notice of those rankings. The history of this championship is they have been very tough opponents for us," All Blacks captain Kieran Read said.
Argentina's Super Rugby team, the Jaguares, are effectively also the national side and the grind of the Southern Hemisphere competition has taken its toll.
Steven Hansen, the All Blacks coach, argued that Argentina were in a difficult situation with an arduous travel schedule.
"They've gone from being a team that was spread all around the world, to a team that were brought together and put into the Super Rugby competition," he said.
"Now they play four or five home games every year and then their next closest game is New Zealand, which I think is 15 hours' flight time.
"It's a horrific schedule they've got. I think that takes a lot out of them."
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE