Argentina dump rugby captain Matera after racist, xenophobic tweets resurface

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Pablo Matera of Argentina makes a break during the 2020 Tri-Nations rugby match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Argentina Los Pumas at Bankwest Stadium on November 14, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Pablo Matera of Argentina makes a break during the 2020 Tri-Nations rugby match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Argentina Los Pumas at Bankwest Stadium on November 14, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Argentina rugby skipper Pablo Matera was stripped of the captaincy and suspended along with two other players on Tuesday over "discriminatory and xenophobic" tweets.

Just over two weeks after Matera led the Pumas to their first win over the All Blacks, the Argentina Rugby Union "revoked" his captaincy and suspended him, along with second row Guido Petti and replacement hooker Santiago Socino.

"The Argentina Rugby Union forcefully rejects the discriminatory and xenophobic comments published by members of the Pumas squad on social media," a statement read, after offensive tweets dating from 2011-2013 came to light.

In his tweets, since deleted, Matera spoke of "running over blacks" with his car and disparaged Bolivians and Paraguayans.

The team said that although the posts were almost a decade old and did "not represent the personal integrity that the three have shown during their current period with the Pumas", action had to be taken.

"The Argentina Rugby Union condemns any instance of hate speech and considers it unacceptable that anyone expressing those views would represent our country," the statement said.

Matera - who plays club rugby for top Paris side Stade Francais - said in a statement that he was "deeply ashamed".

"I'm sorry to everyone who was offended by the barbarisms I wrote," he said on Instagram.

"At that moment I could never imagine who I would become. Today I have to take responsibility for what I said nine years ago."

"I want to apologise as well to my team and to my family for what they are experiencing because of my actions."

Argentina rugby said it would be asking staff to propose candidates to replace Matera as captain.

The trio's suspension leaves the Pumas reeling ahead of a clash against the Wallabies this weekend.

It is the final fixture of a Tri Nations series that had seen Argentina beat New Zealand and draw with Australia, but which now also be remembered for scandal.

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