All Blacks bug case: Man charged over listening device

The All Blacks perform the Haka before the Bledisloe Cup Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on 20 August 2016 in Sydney, Australia Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The All Blacks went on to win the match and the Bledisloe Cup

Australian police say they have charged a man in connection with a bug placed in a New Zealand meeting room ahead of an international rugby union clash.

Police said the 51-year-old had been employed as a security consultant, but gave no further details.

But New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said the man had worked for the All Blacks for a long time and was "trusted and well-respected".

"Frankly, the charge seems bizarre and unbelievable," he said.

"However, as with all cases before the courts, there has to be a due process that takes place and it is not right or proper for us to make any further comment as this could jeopardise the outcome of the case," he added.

The man has been charged with public mischief and will appear in court on 21 March, the statement from New South Wales police said.

'Bitter taste'

The discovery of what was described as a sophisticated listening device in the All Blacks' team meeting room in a Sydney hotel ahead of the first Bledisloe Cup match between the New Zealanders and Australia's Wallabies in August 2016 made headlines across both nations.

Reports at the time said that the device, hidden in a chair, was working and would have transmitted conversations about the All Blacks' strategy for the match.

Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver ruled out any Australian involvement at the time, calling the situation ludicrous.

In a statement on Tuesday, he praised the police for "providing closure", but hit out at the apparent delay in reporting the presence of the bug.

"The aspect that still leaves a bitter taste out of this whole affair is that the discovery of the device was reported publicly on game day, when it is understood that the alleged discovery of the device occurred much earlier in the week leading up to the test match.

"Clearly the media attention which resulted from it was a distraction that neither team needed on the morning of a very important test match."

The All Blacks went on to beat the Wallabies 42-8.

It was the first of three games in the annual Bledisloe Cup, all of which the All Blacks won, taking their unbeaten cup run to 14 years.

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