Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Spygate new territory for rugby

If the discovery of a listening device inside the All Blacks' team room at their Sydney hotel before the record-breaking victory over the Wallabies was a surprise, so too has been the response of the game's various governing bodies.

This is new territory for the sport. Cricket has been riven by match-fixing scandals for years, and, while there is no evidence to suggest that is at play here, cricket has a strict set of protocols to be followed in the event of such a discovery, and rugby would do well to follow suit.

The biggest issue is the delay before the NSW police were notified of the discovery of the sophisticated device after it was found hidden in a chair in the team's main meeting room at the InterContinental Hotel.

All Blacks' management didn't want to act on it until New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew arrived in Sydney from the Rio Olympics and was fully briefed.

And, adding to the delay, Tew decided to wait until he spoke about the matter to his Australian counterpart Bill Pulver before reporting it to the police, a full five days after the bug was discovered.

No one knows - yet - who planted it but, given the seriousness of match-fixing and the associated gains possible for those betting large sums of money on matches with access to secret information, there is no doubt an international cricket team would have acted very differently.

So far, too, there is silence from Sanzaar, under whose auspices the test was played at ANZ Stadium.

A report in a Sydney newspaper today said Sanzaar had sent a terse "please explain" to New Zealand Rugby regarding the delay in the police being notified, but a Sanzaar spokesman would only tell the Herald via email that "No, Sanzaar not involved. It is with the police".

World Rugby has also remained silent on the issue for now.

Australian media have wasted little time in putting the All Blacks under the spotlight - assistant coach Ian Foster was asked by a local journalist today whether taking extra security arrangements was a symptom of the team's "paranoia".

A routine sweep by security staff contracted by the team's management found the device.

"I'm interested you used the word 'paranoia', because I think you can kick that word for touch," Foster said. "All teams are protective of the way they want to go about things and so that's just something we've done occasionally for obvious reasons.

"It's shocked everyone. We understand there are a few mixed emotions and it's not great for the game but it's happened and it's out of our hands now and we'll move forward."

Australian Rugby have denied any involvement but the Bledisloe Cup rematch against the Wallabies' in Wellington this Saturday means the issue is unlikely to die quickly.

Meanwhile, a former military communications expert told the Heraldhe wouldn't be surprised if the perpetrator was caught by the police.

"The device has been specifically designed to be concealed in that chair," he said. "Someone has seen the chair, gone in there and done it, that's how much time they've had.

"Given the sophistication of the device and how it was concealed, only a very, very small number of people would be capable of doing it. And of those, who were in Sydney and with access to the hotel during that time period?

"I wouldn't be surprised if the person listening to it was within line of sight of the hotel, and only a short distance away."

Mark van Leewarden, a former New Zealand Police detective who now works as an investigating lawyer for Warden Consulting, also said the NSW police should feel confident about getting a good result.

"They should be able to go a reasonable way down the track, because you don't normally find the device..."

Asked about the five-day delay between the All Blacks finding the bug and reporting it to police, he said: "That's probably not unusual. They would be wondering how to deal with it. They've obviously got their own security guys and they're doing a good job."

Leewarden said apart from the normal day-to-day security of keeping unauthorised people and listening devices out of team rooms, the All Blacks would be mindful of computer hacking and how their rubbish is disposed of.

"Rubbish attacks" could gather valuable information, he said.

- NZ Herald

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