Aaron Cruden was spotted socialising with four All Blacks teammates at a Ponsonby bar early on Sunday but it is unclear whether he left with them about 2am.
A patron at Little Easy said Cruden seemed to have been drinking but was still coherent on the night out that led to his missing his flight to play in Argentina on Sunday morning.
The man said he saw All Blacks Liam Messam and Steven Luatua drinking in a booth with friends at the Auckland inner-city bar when he arrived about 11.30pm. "They were just sitting in a booth having a quiet one with mates, getting pints."
Another All Black, Jerome Kaino, arrived about midnight, before Cruden and Brodie Retallick arrived separately between 12.30am and 1am to join their teammates.
The man said Cruden was "pretty chilled out" and seemed to have been drinking, but was coherent enough to mix with the crowd and have photos taken, including one with the man's female friend, who said she didn't actually see the player with a drink in his hand after he arrived at the bar.
The man saw the other players leave before the bar closed, but he was unsure if Cruden was with them.
It is understood Cruden also went to the Long Room on Ponsonby Rd, which normally closes at 3am on Saturdays and Sundays.
A new photo emerged yesterday of Cruden posing with a woman at what looked like a bar. It was posted on Instagram on Monday and linked to a ZM radio story.
Cruden and other All Blacks had started out at the Zookeeper's Son in Royal Oak on Saturday after their earlier flight to South America was delayed because of mechanical issues.
The team were staying at the Airport Novotel and left for Santiago at 11.38am on Sunday. Cruden failed to make the team assembly point and has been ruled out of tests matches against Argentina and South Africa.
He is likely to face a New Zealand Rugby Union disciplinary hearing.
The former Manawatu Turbos player's behaviour could also cost him thousands of dollars, with the All Blacks' weekly assembly fee of $7500 in jeopardy and fines also on the radar.
The team's chief executive, John Knowles, told One News Cruden's behaviour was out of character and a shock to him. He said the player would learn from his mistake.
"It's a big penalty he's going to learn and live with for the rest of his life. It's going to hurt him, there's no question about that, and so that's probably sufficient penalty."
The NZRU declined to comment yesterday and Cruden's agent could not be reached.
- Staff reporter