The All Blacks have been given an international black eye they and their high profile sponsors didn't need as the Aaron Smith sex scandal creates world wide headlines.
Executives at blue chip multi-national sponsors such as AIG and adidas will not be happy as they eye the international fallout of Smith's indiscretion at Christchurch Airport.
It was revealed this morning the 27-year-old halfback had an encounter with a woman the day after the test against the Springboks in Christchurch three weeks ago. A witness said there was no question what the pair were up to.
Many fans are offering Smith no support, including some of New Zealand's most prominent women, while many fans are playing defence for the world's best halfback.
"All Blacks star in sex scandal" screamed lurid headlines in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Australia media empire where the story is across various outlets like the Brisbane Courier-Mail, Sydney's Daily Telegraph and the Melbourne Herald-Sun as well as featuring prominently on the popular news.com.au website.
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"Rugby star Aaron Smith has a girlfriend back home, but he's been caught with his pants down after an incident in a toilet," was the story's intro as the lurid events of the disabled toilet incident quickly shot to among the most read stories on the site.
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Fairfax's Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age papers also gave the story prominent treatment.
The Herald documented the story in the context of the ongoing dramas around New Zealand Rugby following the Chiefs stripper and Losi Filipo controversies.
The Herald's website featured a headline reading: "Season from hell for All Blacks with toilet tryst latest embarrassment".
Embarrassingly for New Zealand Rugby, the story was also picked up by the Reuters news agency who supply a host of international newspapers and news websites.
The UK website, the Daily Mail which is said to be the most popular news website in the world, featured the story strongly under a headline: All Blacks suspend Smith after toilet liaison.
Of greater concern for the All Blacks' sponsors, the story is gaining traction in American media outlets.
The All Blacks are scheduled to play in Chicago next month against Ireland in a continued bid to bolster their status in the huge American market.
The All Blacks are leveraged by AIG in the United States as "the best team you've never heard of".
Thanks to Aaron Smith, there's a good chance many have heard of the All Blacks now.
The All Blacks halfback has been stood down for one game and is heading home from South Africa after the squad were alerted to the incident.
"Clearly Aaron is bitterly disappointed in his behaviour and feels he has let the team down but just as importantly he feels bitterly disappointed in letting his family and his partner down," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said today.
Christchurch Airport this morning deemed the rugby player's behaviour in the airport terminal's toilet's "inappropriate".
"Like many public facilities, we have disabled facilities.
"We don't condone inappropriate behaviour at our airport and we understand that matters are being dealt with between the All Blacks and the player concerned," a spokeswoman said.
Manawatu Rugby Union CEO John Knowles said it wasn't a matter for them to be concerned with.
He said the incident was at a New Zealand Rugby Union level and any consequences were out of their hands.
"What I can say though is that he will not be available for the Turbos. When NZRU called me yesterday about the incident I did ask about his availability to play but they said no."
He said the club would now sit tight and wait for the outcome of the disciplinary hearing scheduled for next week.
"It's obviously disappointing what has happened, but of course we are happy it wasn't out of our camp. But it's disappointing Aaron would get himself involved in something like this that would generate bad publicity for the game."
Smith had been a great ambassador for Manawatu Rugby, he said, noting the halfback's ability to interact well with fans and local charities.