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