Struggling Highlanders drop six for breach of team 'code' ahead of crunch match
WELLINGTON - The Highlanders have dropped six players, including All Black Josh Ioane, for Saturday's crunch Super Rugby Aotearoa match against the Crusaders after they breached the team “code”, coach Tony Brown said on Wednesday.
The unspecified breach could not come at a worse time for the Highlanders, who are bottom of the table after a 1-3 start to the season and have suffered a raft of injuries.
Sione Misiloi, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Teariki Ben-Nicholas and Patelesio Tomkinson will join fullback Ioane on the sidelines.
"There's six guys who are unavailable through letting the team down around their standards -- broke the code that we live by and it's all around their professional habits," Brown told reporters.
"They just let the team down, the leaders and the whole organisation, so they won't be available for selection.
"They have to earn their right to get selected again so we'll see how they go for the rest of the week at training and see how they go next week."
New Zealand's Stuff news website reported there was a "loud party" at Ioane's house over the weekend, but Brown declined to confirm the nature of the breach.
It is the second time Ioane has been sanctioned for an off-field incident in six months, with the one-test All Black dropped by the provincial Otago side last October along with a team mate for an alcohol-related breach.
"Josh is an All Black. If he wants to get back there for sure he'll have to be better," said Brown.
The Highlanders' culture came under the microscope last July when several players were involved in partying at a holiday apartment complex in Queenstown that triggered complaints from guests and saw police called in to investigate.
No Highlanders players were arrested or charged but the team apologised for their "antisocial behaviour".
"They're always sorry. We've moved on, and they've moved on," said Brown.
"I’m disappointed, the same as the whole organisation."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)