CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - New Zealand winger Zac Guildford publicly admitted on Monday to excessive drinking, and the All Blacks denied that's the reason why he hasn't appeared in the World Cup so far.
All Blacks manager Darren Shand and the 22-year-old winger fronted a news conference to quash rumours that Guildford was the only fit player not picked for the games against Tonga and Japan as punishment for breaking an agreement with the coaches to limit his drinking.
Shand said he was pleased that Guildford was addressing his issues.
"He's really taken ownership of it, he's been awesome in the last couple of weeks and we really back this environment that we've got here to help people with those off-field issues, so ultimately good rugby players can perform on the paddock," Shand said.
He said the coaches became concerned about several incidents involving Guildford and alcohol and talked to the seven-cap winger last month while in Port Elizabeth for the Tri-Nations test against South Africa. Shand said Guildford agreed to drink "moderately."
But after a poor display the following weekend in the Tri-Nations-deciding loss to Australia in Brisbane, Guildford drank heavily in the team hotel, forcing a sterner meeting with team management.
A regretful Guildford wanted to atone for his behaviour.
"For me personally, I feel I let myself down and the team down," he said.
"Obviously a poor performance on the field in a week that I felt the pressure at times led to me making a few bad decisions off the field following that game.
"I feel now that I have got a chance and I want to make the most of it. I want to stay in the All Blacks. I don't want to throw this opportunity away."
Shand said the All Blacks were not banned from drinking alcohol.