Craig Dowd believes All Blacks were target of listening device

Ryan Crotty runs in to score against the Wallabies. Photo /Brett Phibbs
Ryan Crotty runs in to score against the Wallabies. Photo /Brett Phibbs

Former All Black prop Craig Dowd believes the listening device planted in the All Blacks' Sydney hotel room was in place to gain information on the World Cup winners.

The Herald exclusively revealed that a device like those used by law enforcement and spying agencies had been planted in a chair in the hotel where the team had been staying since Sunday as they prepared for last weekend's Bledisloe Cup test.

New South Wales police have launched an investigation. One theory is that a betting syndicate is behind the planting of the device - any classified information can provide advantages for those betting on matches, and World Rugby is particularly strict on match fixing, and "spot fixing", whereby specific elements of the game are manipulated to provide a certain result.

Dowd, who played 60 test for the All Blacks, said he had suspicions during his career.

"I believe the device was put there for information on the All Blacks. I've had suspicions in the past. This sort of thing has been going on for a number of years," Dowd wrote in a column for Scrum.com.

"I've played in games where all of a sudden the opposition knew your lineout calls or whatever; but apart from a few things you can only ever get a very small percentage. You're never going to get an edge if you don't have the cattle; nothing is going to help you," Dowd wrote.

"When you were playing with Jonah Lomu you would get plenty of spying going on, but at the end of the day the opposition still had to tackle him and spying couldn't help them do that."

"It's been around for a long time. We've had guys hiding in the trees or spying on you, or trying to get information out of you. Then remember last year at Eden Park when someone was filming Michael Cheika's clipboard and they got some inside oil; but you are only ever going to get a very tiny piece of information."

Yesterday Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver said he can't describe the All Blacks as paranoid for having rooms swept for listening devices, but the ARU aren't doing it.

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster took umbrage at the suggestion his team were paranoid when the issue was raised in the aftermath of their 42-8 win.

Pulver said on Wednesday he'd never previously heard of sports teams sweeping rooms for bugs.

"I'm not going to describe the All Blacks as paranoid, it's up to them to run their team the way they want to," Pulver said.

"But I can tell you we don't sweep rooms."

Police weren't notified until five days after the device was detected as All Blacks management waited for New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew to return from the Rio Olympics.

"There was a bit of delayed reaction to hand it over to the police, and I think in retrospect they probably would have handed it over to the police a lot earlier than they did," Pulver said.

"But I think like me they were probably shocked by that outcome.

"I was shocked because I've never heard of the concept of listening devices in the world of rugby, those behaviours are not typical in our game.

"I knew we had nothing to do with it. I was disappointed that it came out on game day because I thought it was an unnecessary distraction."

Pulver said he was first informed about the device on Friday by Tew at the traditional Bledisloe eve dinner for the Australian and New Zealand rugby boards.

"About 10 o'clock that night Steve (Tew) showed me a photograph of this funny little device that looked like two batteries with a little wire, pretty innocuous," Pulver said.

"He said at this point they were confident that it wasn't going to be an issue for public exposure.

"The next morning he rang me, and in fairness to Steve most apologetic, that it had been released to the public."He was a bit embarrassed about that and we (had) both agreed on the Friday night that it should be handed over to the police."

- NZ Herald

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