All Blacks and Chiefs loose forward Sione Lauaki has appeared in court charged with trashing property at an Auckland motel in the early hours of New Year's Day.
The 27-year-old, who made his international debut in 2005, is at least the 11th All Black to appear in criminal court in the past five years.
News of his arrest came in the week Jesse Ryder was dropped from the Black Caps for an unauthorised drinking session and former All Black Jerry Collins was accused and cleared of attacking a woman in France.
Lauaki appeared before Auckland District Court on New Year's Day, charged with intentionally damaging three windows and a television at the Greenlane Motor Inn, opposite the Ellerslie Racecourse.
A source told the Herald on Sunday the couple arrived at 5.50am and Lauaki paid for a ground-floor unit. Soon after staff heard raised voices and windows being smashed.
"He smelt like alcohol," said the source. "He had a disagreement with a female friend. They had only been in the room about five minutes."
The motel owner called police who sent three cars to the incident. The source said Lauaki and his girlfriend were taken away in separate vehicles.
A police source said Lauaki lost his temper when his girlfriend said she wanted to leave him.
Last week, Lauaki, who is in pre-season training with the Chiefs in the Waikato, paid the $700 repair bill, the motel source said.
The police source said Lauaki's lawyer, Richard Earwaker, had applied for diversion, but it was unlikely to be granted if he admitted a second offence. In February 2006, Lauaki was offered police diversion after admitting assaulting a Hamilton security officer.
Numerous attempts to contact Lauaki and his agent Bruce Sharrock were unsuccessful. Earwaker confirmed he was acting for Lauaki but said he was unauthorised to comment and referred the Herald on Sunday to Sharrock.
New Zealand Rugby Union and Chiefs management expressed disappointment at Lauaki's arrest.
"We're disappointed that a player has been arrested and will wait to the end of the court process before meeting with Sione to discuss the issue," said NZRU general manager of professional rugby Neil Sorensen.
The Hamilton-based Chiefs Super 14 franchise will follow the same process.
"Any time any of our players get public exposure through this type of thing it's very disappointing," said chief executive Gary Dawson.
"It's not something that we enjoy having to deal with."
Attempts to contact All Black coach Graham Henry were unsuccessful, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew was unavailable and a spokesman for All Black manager Darren Shand said he was on holiday.
All Black mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka, who was told of Lauaki's arrest by the Herald on Sunday, said Lauaki, like other players, had taken part in mentoring programmes about how to behave, particularly around alcohol.
"Sione, after the missing the last All Black tour, would have gone back into the care of the Waikato franchise and I would have hoped that ongoing maintenance of that sort of issue would have occurred," he said.
Dawson said Lauaki, like his Chiefs teammates, had been working with a professional development manager on all "aspects of life off the rugby field".
"Any time any of our players is involved in an incident it's not good for the franchise, it's not good for rugby overall... but we just have to deal with it. All we can do is try and give the best advice we can, support we can, best education we can to all these players.
"But at the end of the day they are adults. They've got to make their own decisions about their own behaviour, and really be responsible for the consequences of that."
Former All Black captain Anton Oliver exposed the side's boozy culture in his 2005 autobiography Inside, criticising John Mitchell's "inappropriate" behaviour during his first tour as coach to Scotland, Ireland and Argentina in 2001.
Oliver said: "Everyone was being asked to drink far too much. We are teaching them [young team members] that this is what it is to be an All Black - to drink lots of booze."
Enoka said yesterday that tackling the boozy culture among the All Blacks was a work in progress but the situation had undoubtedly improved.
"I've had eight years in that environment and boy, I tell you what, I've seen it all."
Enoka said the "current regime" had a clear philosophy on where alcohol sits in terms of the performance environment and the culture.
"They want people to have a good time but they understand that they're All Blacks 24/7 and with that comes a responsibility."
Lauaki was the second All Black to appear in court within nine days. Flanker Adam Thomson appeared in Hastings District Court on December 23 charged with assaulting his girlfriend, former television presenter Joanne Holley. The 26-year-old is accused of twice hitting Holley at a Havelock North motel in the early hours of December 21 after attending a wedding reception.
Thomson has not entered a plea and has been remanded on bail until January 29.
Enoka said NZRU and All Black management were introducing behaviour-related clauses to player contracts. "The administration have basically said we're actually going to show our teeth and show that we mean business in and around those issues."
All Black spokesman Joe Locke said he was unaware of such a development.
Lauaki has played 17 tests for the All Blacks since scoring 15 points in his debut against Fiji.