New Zealand Rugby
Guildford accused of drunken assault
ESPNscrum Staff
November 13, 2011
New Zealand winger Zac Guildford crosses for his hat-trick try, New Zealand v Canada, Wellington Stadium, New Zealand, October 2, 2011
All Blacks winger Zac Guildford has fought a public battle with the bottle © Getty Images

All Blacks winger Zac Guildford is at the centre of fresh controversy after an alleged drunken assault in the Cook Islands.

The 22-year-old, who hit the headlines after drinking heavily in the wake of his side's clashes with Australia in Auckland and Brisbane earlier this year, has been accused of punching a man in a bar in Rarotonga where the Rugby World Cup winner was enjoying a break ahead of the new Super Rugby season.

Witnesses said the winger turned up wet, naked and bleeding at the Trader Jacks bar on Thursday night local time. Guildford then allegedly assaulted a man who asked him if he needed help before staggering to the bar and punching a 60-year-old Australian man across the back of the head. The New Zealand Herald reports that he then climbed on to the stage before running into the bar's kitchen, where staff covered him with an apron. He then took off into the night with a group of women he had been partying with earlier. Cook Islands police were called to the bar but said they would not comment on the incident until Monday morning.

New Zealand Rugby Union professional rugby general manager Neil Sorensen has vowed to help Guildford rather than tear up his lucrative contract. "The first thing we'll do is find out the facts," Sorensen said. "The second thing we will do is help the guy if he is in trouble. Again, our first move is to really say 'how can we help this guy', that's the first thing. But we've got to establish the facts and it sounds like he got up to something. We are not denying that."

Guildford admitted to alcohol issues during the World Cup and reportedly embarked on 'self-improvement programme' under the guidance of the NZRU. "Zac's been in front us about three times in the last 18 months," Sorensen said. "So he's had a bit of a troubled career and it's been well-publicised. He lost his dad a couple of years ago. He's also had some alcohol-related issues in the past, and we've worked closely with Zac over the last 18 months and many people have, and we will continue to do so. He's a good young man."

New Zealand Rugby Players' Association executive director Rob Nichol told Radio Live the organisation had faith in Guildford and would continue to work with him. "When you have these sorts of issues the hardest part is actually addressing them," he said. "He's going to need a lot of help and a lot of support and he's going to up and down in that process. There was a lot of work put around Zac after the incidents just prior to and during the World Cup. It's not uncommon for a player to go through this scenario and have a slip up.

"We want to persevere around these young kids and when they are struggling we want to be there and help them and not turn our backs, whether that takes six months, a year or longer. New Zealand rugby and sport in general is based on values and mateship and the guy is going through a difficult time. "You've got to work out how you can best add value and hope that things come right. The support is there but ultimately this is not a sporting issue, this is a serious societal issue."

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