Australia has denied eavesdropping electronically on New Zealand's rugby team, the All Blacks, in their Sydney hotel to glean tactics. Police say they're probing last Monday's find - a device hidden in a hotel chair.
New Zealand rugby's chief executive Steve Tew said Saturday, just hours before playing Australia's Wallabies, that the device was found in a hotel room used to discuss team tactics during a "routine security check."
During last year's Rugby World Cup in England, the All Blacks (pictured above training on Friday) suspected that their team rooms were bugged and decided this year to have a scan carried out by experts in their Sydney residence, the InterContinental Hotel Double Bay.
Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver said he was "utterly disappointed" that the story had broken on match day, just hours before Saturday's opening Rugby Championship game which ended in a 42-8 win by the All Blacks.
"It is a ludicrous concept that there are listening devices being placed in team rooms," Pulver said before the match. "We are going to focus on a game of rugby that we've got tonight and we will deal with this matter after the rugby."
Police in the state of New South Wales, where Sydney is located, said they were investigating, despite the five-day delay in notifying them.
"At this point in time our forensic people are looking at that device," New South Wales Police Superintendent Brad Hodder told reporters on Saturday. "All I can say is it's an electronic device."
Tew said he had spoken with Pulver, who was "just as shocked as I was."
Misdeeds are not new in the rugby scene. Food-poisoning suspicions overshadowed a 1995 All Black visit to South Africa.
Concealed in chair's foam
The "New Zealand Herald" newspaper based in Auckland said the foam of the hotel seat had been sewn or glued back together to conceal the spy agency-type device in a "meticulous act" that would have required "significant" time.
Australia's Wallabies go into Saturday's test match the underdogs against the All Blacks, currently the world champions.
New South Wales premier Mike Baird laughed off the find, saying "if it gives us a chance to beat the All Blacks, I'm all for it."
Saturday's game ended with the All Blacks scoring six tries to one, despite the retirement of their legendary captain Richie McCaw. For Australia, it was its fifth straight test match rugby defeat against New Zealand.
ipj/tj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)