Red-faced Guildford slapped with ban
All Blacks and Crusaders' wing Zac Guildford has been slapped with a suspension that will see him miss the first Super Rugby game next year as punishment for his drunken spree in the Cook Islands last month.
In a ruling released on Wednesday following a New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) misconduct hearing, Guildford was also ordered to undergo alcohol treatment and counselling at his own expense.
Guildford was in the small Pacific island nation for a friend's wedding when he staggered naked, drunk and bleeding into a bar and allegedly assaulted two people.
He was also accused of harrassing an athlete and making lewd sexual comments as she was on a training run along a road on the main island Rarotonga.
The NZRU ruled Guildford's conduct was unprofessional and brought the game into disrepute, and imposed a four-match ban covering the Crusaders' three pre-season matches and their opening Super Rugby game against the Auckland Blues.
It was the second time in two months that Guildford hit the headlines thanks to alcohol-related issues after he was publicly reprimanded for his behaviour by the All Blacks management during the World Cup following an incident during the Tri-Nations.
NZRU professional rugby manager Neil Sorensen said they now had an agreement with Guildford that professional treatment and counselling provided by external specialists was an essential part of his rehabilitation.
"Taking players out of rugby is not something we do lightly. But we have taken into account the fact that with regard to alcohol-related behaviour, Zac does not have an exemplary record," Sorensen said.
"On this occasion, he embarrassed himself, his family, his teammates, and New Zealand Rugby. We believe Zac brought the game into disrepute and the sanctions reflect the gravity of the situation and the need for a real pathway to recovery.
"To his credit, Zac himself has agreed that he needs assistance and recognises that both the NZRU and the Crusaders support him taking time to get himself right," added Sorensen.
Guildford acknowledged in a statement that his behaviour had been unacceptable, and he was working to resolve his issues.
"I am embarrassed by what has happened, but I know that I let down the many people who support me," he said.
"I am focused on getting myself into the place I need to be when I return to rugby next year."
Guildford's agent, Simon Porter, explained that the 22-year-old had sought counseling before the NZRU verdict was handed down.
He said: "Zac put his hand up straight away and put those measure in place himself. It wasn't like that was foisted upon him or part of the disciplinary outcome. That was something Zac wanted to do.
"I don't want to go into the detail because it's private and confidential stuff, but Zac put his hand up. It's not part of the disciplinary outcome, but part of the support everyone was trying to put in place.
''We didn't have to work hard to do it because Zac wanted to do it... They [the NZRU] can direct people to do it as part of the disciplinary process, but that makes it sound like Zac wasn't willing to do it and that's not the case," he added.