It has been described as a "sophisticated" listening device "similar to that used by law enforcement and spy agencies" - but the bug allegedly planted to record the All Blacks can be purchased for as little as $38.

Sydney's Sunday Daily Telegraph newspaper today claimed a source had told it the bug that caused a diplomatic spat between the Australian and New Zealand rugby unions was a "low-tech listening device that could be purchased online for between $A35 and $A130" ($NZ38 to $NZ141).

The discovery of the device hidden in chair in the All Blacks' team meeting room at Sydney's Intercontinental Hotel in the lead-up to last year's Bledisloe Cup test is now the centre of a trial across the Tasman.

The security manager employed by the All Blacks, Adrian Gard, was charged with public mischief six months after the incident and appeared in court last week.

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The Telegraph claimed the bug was a "cheap, easy to purchase radio transmitter" that was powered by a nine-volt battery, similar to what anyone can purchase online.

The news outlet reported that its source had told them that the bug's signal was so weak it could be rendered useless by the interference caused by the hotel's walls, or even by someone sitting on the chair where it was hidden.

The device was a radio frequency receiver with a microphone and wire antenna that could be broadcast to a radio or receiver tuned in to a specific frequency, the source said.

Gard, 51, a Queenslander who has worked in a security role for the All Blacks for the past decade and who was once a bodyguard for Bill ­Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, was charged with making a false ­representation to police that sparked an investigation.

He has engaged leading lawyer Simon Joyner, who entered a not guilty plea at Waverley Court in Sydney last week where he said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wanted the hearings to coincide with the availability of All Blacks management.

The case could remain one of sport's greatest mysteries, with police failing to find a motive for the bugging.

Instead, they allege Gard was caught in a lie after police concluded his story about how he found the bug didn't add up.

To convict Gard on the charge, which carries a maximum one year in jail, prosecutors will need to prove it was impossible for the bug to be ­hidden inside the chair cushion where Gard claimed to have found it.

Another hurdle for prosecutors is ruling out the possibility that the ­device hadn't been left behind from an earlier surveillance attempt that had nothing to do with the All Blacks.

Reports of the bug first emerged in the New Zealand Herald on August 20, 2016, in the hours prior to the All Blacks easily winning the first clash of the series at ANZ Stadium 42-8.

Gard allegedly found the device on August 15, but the discovery was not reported to the police until the Herald broke the story five days later. The Telegraph reported that the discover "further strained the often bitter relationship between the two rugby nations and claims emerged that it confirmed the All Blacks' long held suspicion that opponents had been spying on them".

Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver was forced to deny any Wallabies were involved.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was furious about the accusations and publicly questioned why the New Zealanders would "drop it on the day of the game".

Gard, who is involved with security company BGI, has worked in the security industry for 31 years.

On previous tours he had been ­responsible for scanning the All Blacks' training grounds and meeting areas for covert surveillance and ­listening devices.

For the Sydney leg of the 2016 tour, the team's management asked for the task to be performed by a local specialist who used state-of-the-art counter-surveillance equipment, with Gard overseeing the work.

A source told the Telegraph that Gard was referred to a Sydney-based contractor who scanned the All Blacks' training ground at North Sydney Oval on the morning of August 15. Nothing was found.

The pair then went to the Intercontinental and scanned the team's meeting room, which was set up in the hotel ballroom. It was there that the specialist allegedly picked up a positive reading on two chairs, which had a metal frame and a cushion.

Gard later told police he cut open the cushion of one and found a ­recording device. He reported the discovery to the All Blacks' management and the hotel was also notified.

The team's hierarchy decided to wait until NZRU chief Steve Tew flew into Sydney from the Rio Olympics, which took five days, before taking the matter further.

After the Sydney match, Hansen said: "The reason that we didn't go there (to police) straight away was because we went through a process with the hotel and our CEO was away at the Olympics."

A hotel source told the Telegraph that the Intercontinental conducted its own investigation using a private investigator.

On the day of the game, after the New Zealand Herald had published a report about claims that the bug had been found in the hotel, the matter was reported to NSW police.

That afternoon, Gard gave a formal statement to police detailing his account. Six months later police charged Gard, two weeks before the statute of limitations would have ­expired on the public mischief charge.

Hansen, a former policeman, described the charge as "bizarre and unbelievable".

The matter will return to court on May 2.​

- staff reporter and news.com.au