Former All Blacks coach Laurie Mains has called for tolerance to be shown to Zac Guildford - who on Monday admitted having drinking issues - given the immense pressure today's players are under.
Guildford, 22, broke team protocol when he hit the town after his team's Bledisloe Cup victory in Auckland on August 6. There was another reported drinking episode at the team's Brisbane hotel after his disappointing performance against Australia.
Mains said today's players were under much greater pressure than when he played for the team - or when he coached them between 1992 and 1995 - and faced far more scrutiny.
"In my time as a coach and an All Black getting a few drinks on board wasn't a newsworthy item so the media never used to worry about it," he said.
"Being an All Black in this current environment is stressful and the players need to occasionally let their hair down and enjoy themselves. That will inevitably lead, from time to time, to players perhaps overstepping the line a bit.
"We have to understand the pressure these young men are under and we have to have some tolerance."
Mains praised the All Blacks' management, and Guildford, for making the issue public.
"They probably nipped it in the bud - they were smart and they did the right thing," he said.
Mains was confident the young winger would bounce back and go on to have a successful career.
"I don't believe that it will [jeopardise his position in the team], just as it didn't with Jimmy Cowan. He will now know the rules and if he doesn't step over the line again he'll be fine."
On Monday, a sombre Guildford said he felt he let himself and his team down.
The All Blacks are not subject to alcohol restrictions during the World Cup, but are expected to adhere to behaviour protocols.
Guildford's uncle says the Hawke's Bay Magpie has been made a scapegoat.
Daren Guildford said: "He wasn't the only one in the All Blacks camp drinking and, in my opinion, he was made the scapegoat. If he has a drinking problem, then half the population of 22-year-olds in this country have got one."
All Blacks manager Darren Shand confirmed the winger had drunk excessively after the Tri Nations loss to Australia in Brisbane, breaking an agreement he made with the All Blacks coaches. APNZ