Sanzaar and Rugby Australia have apologised to Argentina Rugby after a promotional photo was labelled "disrespectful" by Pumas coach Mario Ledesma.
Following Argentina's 27-8 loss in Townsville on Saturday, Ledesma took time near the end of the post-match press conference to raise an issue with a captain's photo call on Friday.
Australia, New Zealand and South Africa's respective captains all took part in the photo opportunity but Argentina's skipper Julian Montoya was nowhere to be seen.
Argentina didn't arrive in Townsville until later in the day on Friday and Ledesma said the side was disrespected and the photo call shouldn't have taken place without them.
The All Blacks posted a video on their social media channels of Ardie Savea and rival captains Siya Kolisi and Michael Hooper sharing banter after the photo shoot, where social media users began to question why there was no Argentinian in attendance.
"We were disrespected," Ledesma said. "[There was] a video. Everyone is joking and having a good time. Our captain is not there. How do you think we feel about that? How would you feel about that if Australia was treated that way? [There should be] a little common sense and say guys, 'We are four teams over here. We cannot make a picture and a video with one captain missing'. Even if it's lost in translation. It's not an excuse or valid.
"At the end of the day, if we're not here, you shouldn't do it, just [out of] respect. I don't think it's a lot to ask.
"I don't know if it was Rugby Australia, Sanzaar or whatever. It's just disrespectful and it hurts a lot because we have families. We have kids we haven't seen for ages now. The only thing we ask is to get treated fairly and with respect."
Following the criticism, Sanzaar and Rugby Australia released a joint statement apologising for the "error".
"Sanzaar and Rugby Australia management would like to apologise to Argentina Rugby for the error that led to a photograph being published in the media that misrepresented The Rugby Championship in that it omitted Argentina.
"A promotional photograph featuring the captains of Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa had been planned for the tournament once all matches had been rescheduled to be played in Queensland. A photo session was organised for the day before the Round 5 matches in Townsville on Friday, September 24. Unfortunately, a late travel change then meant that the Argentina captain could not make the designated time for the photo session.
"It was determined that the photo session would proceed so that a photo of the New Zelaand and South African captains could be taken to promote the historic 100th match between the two countries. Furthermore, the Australian captain would be photographed in the First Nations jersey that the Australian team would wear in the match for local promotion. These photographs were taken and utilised by the media from the respective countries."
The apology explained that a photo with the three captains, without Argentina, was not meant to be taken.
"However, during the photo session a communications breakdown led to a photograph being taken of the three attending captains with the trophy, minus the absent Argentina captain. Sanzaar and Rugby Australia take full responsibility for this error and acknowledge that it should not have happened and fully understands Argentina Rugby's disappointment over this matter after the image appeared in the media. Sanzaar would like to publicly state that no disrespect was intended and indeed would like to thank Argentina Rugby for its unselfish and committed contribution to the Rugby Championship, highlighted by the fact that it has played all matches away from home over the last two years."
A Rugby Australia spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald that attempts were made to have all four captains but with the teams based an hour apart it wasn't possible. Offers were made to pick up a non-playing member from the Argentina squad but it wasn't taken up.
"We were told they weren't supposed to take the picture," Ledesma said. "We're not asking for much. Last year when South Africa pulled out, we came over here, went through strict lockdown and were away from home for three or four months. We're the only team that haven't played at home for more than two years. We feel sometimes we get treated with disrespect and we continue and cop it on the chin.
"Nobody seems to care because no one picked it up."
Argentina were the story of last year's tournament, beating the All Blacks for the first time ever despite going into the test on the back of MIQ and no proper warm-up followed by back-to-back draws with Australia to finish second.