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Ben Smith dumps world cup campaign for Anthony Bourdain-style food tour

A late-night hotel room viewing of Anthony Bourdain's Cook's Tour has devastated the All Blacks' world cup campaign.

Rather than being focused on gathering high balls or Spingbok  tactics, a breakaway group led by backline legend Ben Smith is AWOL, finding the soul in Japan's famous sushi and whiskey bar scene.

"We were pleased with Bender getting his mojo back in Hamilton, but the last we saw of him he was going into a bar that didn't have a sign and only had like three or four seats," said Steven Hansen. "I think he went to the fish market after that."

Japanese cuisine is renowned for its fresh seafood and meticulous preparation, and if the lure of finding universal truths over a bowl of noodles and cold beer holds more appeal than a second world cup campaign, the All Blacks could be left short at fullback and wing cover. 

It's understood a small group of players were unwinding in Smith's room with American chef Antony Bourdain's travelogue TV series, then disappeared.

Ian Foster lead a search party through Kashima's food district, but called it off when Sam Whitelock disappeared to experience the heady combination of neon signs and saki for himself.

Smith could not be reached directly for comment, but text messaged "Was bored with getting on and off luxury coaches. Had noodles that were cold. O-yasumi nasai."

Thanks for reading - Richard
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The week's best NZ sport content

A Captain's Cup is a series of interviews with every world cup-winning captain - David Kirk is first up [Radio Sport]

What's going on at the Breakers? All-time great player and general manager Dillon Boucher has walked away, as the clear out of most anyone who made the team great continues [Newshub]

Chris Eaton was battling to make a name for himself on the pro rugby circuit - he tells Dylan Cleaver how his world was turned upside down by a car crash [NZ Herald]

Steven Donald on what it's really like playing rugby in Japan, where you play for corporations, not clubs [NZ Herald]

Dana Johannsen looks at Swimming NZ's botched investigation into sexual harassment, where the consultant brought in to run it is now under investigation himself [Stuff]

The new America's Cup boat is in the water and looks sexy as heck - James Littlewood reports from launch day [The Spinoff]

Video nasty

Top five batting bunnies - yes, Chris Martin is in here.

Long read

The story of a friend that came to help when his mate's wife succumbed to cancer, and never left [Esquire]

Selected weekend fixtures 

  • The last Ashes Test is on at 10pm for the next four nights, if it goes that long, it's on SKY
  • Look - there's not loads on this weekend aside from the Mitre 10 Cup and Premier League - and this time next week the world cup will be all go. Maybe sort out the garden or finish that book, save your energy

Bring back the gif 

When u start the pre-world cup chat about who is the favourite.
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