Former All Black Andy Haden has stepped down from his role as a 2011 Rugby World Cup ambassador.

Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully said he had accepted the resignation "with sadness".

"While it had been my intention to discuss this matter with Mr Haden
later today, I have, in the interim, received an email from Andy Haden
relinquishing his position as a 2011 Ambassador," he said.

"Mr Haden has made it clear that he will continue to be available to
assist in any way with preparations for next year's ambitious calendar
of events, in the same way in which he has so generously supported the
interests of New Zealand and rugby in the past.

Mr Haden came under fire after suggesting on Sky TV's Deaker on Sport programme that women who target sport stars and end up being raped are partly to blame.

He was referring to historic sex allegations against former All Black Robin Brooke.

"There's a bloke called Hugh Grant. He got into a bit of trouble like this and I think if the cheque bounces sometimes, they only realise that they've been raped, you know, sometimes," he said.

"It's an equal society now, some of these girls are targeting rugby players and they do so at their peril today, I think."

In an email, Mr Haden said he was resigning due to the media backlash that followed.

"I feel that to stay in the role, given the current media beat-up, would mean having to remove myself from making public comments on the game or related issues.

"I have always believed in saying what I think and I will always
be true to myself in that regard."

Labour's Rugby World Cup spokesman Trevor Mallard earlier said Mr Haden - who is a friend of his - was "deliberately provocative".

"He likes winding people up, and he's also immensely loyal to his old friends and teammates, and that has led him to say something that is just not acceptable."

He told Newstalk ZB Mr Haden should have never been given the role of rugby ambassador to begin with and there were plenty of other people who would represent the country in a much better light.

His heart was in the right place, but he was simply not a diplomat, Mr Mallard said.

Mr Haden previously dodged a sacking when he claimed the Crusaders rugby franchise had race-based selection policies which restricted recruiting to only three "darkies".

- NZHERALD STAFF