All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith may be punished again for his role in the Christchurch Airport sex scandal.
The Weekend Herald has learned that the early findings of an independent review into the incident has established that Smith, 28, lied to New Zealand Rugby staff including general counsel Keith Binnie.
NZ Rugby is still waiting for the woman at the centre of the issue to release to them all of the messages, not just those published in various media. It will then make a final determination.
What form of punishment Smith may receive is unclear at this stage, though it could be a formal suspension. The 65-test No 9 is clearly the best halfback in the country and a pivotal part of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's plan ahead of the team's World Cup defence in 2019.
The imbroglio began when Smith had a tryst with a woman in a disabled toilet at Christchurch Airport in September last year, which was witnessed by members of the public.
Smith returned home from South Africa to face the music, which was framed as a leadership group decision to suspend him for one match.
An internal investigation by NZ Rugby deemed this to be appropriate punishment and the saga would have ended there except last month the woman, who has not been named, released a tranche of messages between her and Smith that indicated he had sanitised his version of events and attempted to coerce her into making a false statement.
At that point, NZ Rugby ordered an independent investigation into the incident.
The dump of correspondence came at the most awkward time for NZ Rugby, which was preparing to release the findings of an independent Respect and Responsibility Review, commissioned in the wake of a bad year for off-field behaviour.
Among other things this review found that NZ Rugby needed to do a better job of educating players about the perils of excess alcohol intake and attitudes towards women - the two strands not mutually exclusive.
In the wake of the release of Smith's messages to the woman, NZ Rugby hired a lawyer to conduct an independent investigation into his involvement in the incident and its messy aftermath.
A preliminary report is now understood to have been delivered to NZ Rugby and is said to show Smith's conduct in a poor light.
While the sport's administrators recognise that young men will make mistakes, an unwritten credo states that players should own them when they make them.
Smith faces a double-jeopardy scenario where he could be punished twice for the same mistake by way of another misconduct hearing.
Smith's agent Warren Alcock told the Weekend Herald he couldn't comment on any aspect of the new investigation. He said Smith had rights like any other employee and he would, therefore, push for any resolution to be made confidential.
This would, however, jar with NZ Rugby's push for greater transparency when dealing with misconduct issues.
The matter is expected to be resolved before the All Blacks leave for the end of year tour at the end of October.