Superstar winger Marika Koroibete is among three Wallabies players scrubbed out of Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup series opener with the All Blacks after leaving teammates filthy over a late-night drinking session.
Koroibete and strike forwards Isi Naisarani and Pone Fa’amausili have been ruled unavailable for selection after breaching team protocol by continuing to consume alcohol more than two hours after curfew following a bonding session in Auckland last Saturday.
Coach Dave Rennie said while “there were no issues around behaviour, damage or complaints or anything,” the trio had let the entire squad down as the Wallabies strive to break a 35-year Eden Park hoodoo.
“We’ve got a big squad here – 42 players. Thirty nine understood the importance of getting together and getting connected and having a quiet beer and three guys lacked the discipline beyond that,” Rennie said on Wednesday.
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“We’ve stated the importance of our preparation for the All Blacks. We all need to be at our very best to try and force the All Blacks to be below their best.
“This obviously didn’t fit with their mindset so (we’re) incredibly disappointed and, to be honest, there’s a big chunk of that group who are pretty angry.”
Rennie said Koroibete, Naisarani and Fa’amausili had taken leftover alcohol from the team room.
“It’s not so much (about being) intoxicated. It was the fact that they continued drinking well beyond the time that was listed,” he said.
“Basically, we’d finished downstairs and the expectation was to call it a night. These three boys went upstairs and carried on (drinking).
“It was certainly more than two hours past (curfew).”
Rennie said a “senior player” first alerted team manager Adrian Thompson to the breach.
But the coach made it clear that senior management made the decision to stand the trio down, saying it wasn’t the leadership group’s call to determine the punishment for an offence “of this scale”.
Asked why it took than three days to publicise the incident, Rennie said it was better to come clean before Thursday’s team announcement than have pundits speculating about why players like Koroibete were missing.
“You sweep this sort of thing under the carpet and it bites you on the backside later on,” he said.
“It’s a frustration for me personally because we’ve wasted a lot of time, obviously, dealing with the players.
“But, look, the squad is really resilient so we made it really, really clear when we made this announcement to the group on Monday.
“Everyone knew the consequences, everyone was supportive of that and we’ve got on and we’re focusing on what we need to do against the All Blacks.
“So it won’t have a detrimental effect on performance. If anything, it will galvanise us.”
There was no consideration to sending the offenders back to Australia, with all three to be available for game two and three of the series after sheepishly apologising to the rest of the squad.
“Obviously their heads were down. They know they let the boys down,” Rennie said.
“Their response is they’ve got to earn the trust and the respect of those boys again and that’s going to be what they do rather than what they say.”
RA boss Andy Marinos said: “Rugby Australia supports the action taken by the team, and the internal standards they have set for each other.
“As an organisation, we expect the highest standards at all times. While we also acknowledge that this is a minor incident, I applaud Dave and the team for taking such an open and transparent approach.”