Ollie Ritchie: Mark Telea axing a distraction All Blacks don't need before Rugby World Cup blockbuster against Ireland

OPINION: This is a major blow for the All Blacks.

I understand winger Mark Telea breached their curfew, he was late back to their team hotel, which is a big no-no in the All Blacks, so he wasn't considered for selection against Ireland.

Coach Ian Foster and the leadership group made the immediate call to drop Mark Telea for breaching team protocol, for breaching the team curfew and being late back to the hotel - a massive distraction this week.

On the field, Mark Telea has been very good for the All Blacks this year and poses a real threat with ball in hand. He's someone they could have done with against Ireland, but off the field, this is a distraction Ian Foster and the All Blacks simply did not need.

Mark Telea and Ollie Ritchie.
Mark Telea and Ollie Ritchie. Photo credit: Photosport/AM Show

We're not entirely sure exactly how late he was, but in this team, even five minutes is too late unfortunately. Mark Telea knew that - he would have known exactly when that curfew was and he was still late, so not good enough.

This happened within the last week, as I understand it. When I say the leadership group, Ian Foster would have consulted with his senior assistant coaches and some of his senior leaders.

There's no doubt captain Sam Cane would have been told and brought into the conversations, because it's important to have a player perspective about these sorts of things.

Sam Cane certainly didn't want to answer any questions about this in today's press conference and, when asked, simply deferred back to Ian Foster's previous comments.

Ian Foster really wanted to leave it there and got quite short with journalists asking questions about this. He said they had nothing more to say and they'd be moving on.

That leadership group would have been consulted on this, I'm sure.

This absolutely could galvanise the team, and I'm sure those leaders within this All Blacks team will be sitting players down and saying, 'We're not going to let this distract us', because this will be front page among all the New Zealand papers, leading the news websites, leading the 6pm TV news.

This is a big story out of the All Blacks and the All Blacks will know that. They will know the media are lapping this up, so no doubt Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Beauden Barrett... those guys will not let this story distract this team.

It could really crack the whip for them. I had a chance to chat with Ardie Savea about it and he was pretty brief in his comments.

He said, 'We love Mark Telea, we are there for Mark Telea, we are feeling for Mark Telea, but our sole focus is what's coming on Saturday night and that's a redhot Irish outfit, the No.1 team in the world and a team many see as favourites to go all the way here in France.

The All Blacks have got a mighty challenge in front of them and can't afford to let the news of Mark Telea become a distraction.

Ollie Ritchie is Newshub's rugby reporter at the World Cup. Join us at 8am Sunday for live updates of the All Blacks v Ireland quarter-final