Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: All Blacks' clearance no comfort for Cheika

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. Photo / Photosport
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. Photo / Photosport

Linking the All Blacks with the deliberate planting of a listening device in their Sydney hotel was a daft theory and might have been wishful thinking in some quarters, but the news that the New South Wales Police have ruled Steve Hansen's team out of suspicion will allow him and his players some closure at least.

They will travel to Chicago and a test against Ireland a week on Friday with their minds fully on extending their world record of 18 consecutive test victories at Soldier Field on November 6; the five-day delay in reporting the device hidden in a chair in their team room in August the only thing they are culpable of, and presumably that lesson has been well and truly learned.

The Daily Telegraph's story, which broke the news that the All Blacks are in the clear, as expected, also stated that betting syndicates also have nothing to worry about as far as the police are concerned.

Information is power, and while the chance for a betting syndicate to gain credible information via a listening device might have been slim, it could have provided an edge.

The newspaper didn't quote sources, but presumably someone close to the investigation leaked the news.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika revealed in his fiery press conference at Eden Park following his team's 37-10 loss to the All Blacks that police had visited Australian Rugby's Sydney headquarters, with staff interviewed.

He was visibly angry at the idea the Wallabies were behind the planting of the device, and the latest news probably won't help his mood much, or Australian Rugby's as a whole.

The police have refused to say whether they are investigating suspects or whether a crime had been committed.

The Wallabies' grand slam tour has the potential to make or break Cheika, World Rugby's coach of the year last year, but whose charges lost five tests in a row in 2016 and who were swept by both England and the All Blacks in three-test series.

All five of Australia's opponents have the potential to trouble his side, who looked better selected and vastly improved against the All Blacks at Eden Park, but were soundly beaten in the final quarter.

Clearly the final test, against England, will be the Wallabies' and Cheika's toughest. England coach Eddie Jones easily got the better of Cheika off the field in June and his combustible former club teammate, accused of being distracted by the Weekend Herald's clown cartoon on the morning of the recent All Blacks' test, will have to think long and hard about his media tactics that week. Those encounters, and the test, could be compelling viewing.

- NZ Herald

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