Prime Minister John Key's unusual three-way handshake with All Black captain Richie McCaw and International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset is set to go down as one of the more uncomfortable moments of Sunday night's Rugby World Cup celebrations.

After the All Blacks' tense 8-7 Rugby World Cup final victory over France, Mr Lapasset denied Mr Key the first handshake with victorious skipper and national hero McCaw after he received the Web Ellis Cup.

With the trophy finally in McCaw's grasp, Mr Key moved to shake his hand but Mr Lapasset swiftly intercepted and got there first. Mr Key, however, was fully committed and snagged a couple of McCaw's fingers. For a few awkward moments the trio were joined in an unconventional three-way handshake.

"Bernard wouldn't let go of his hand", Mr Key said by way of explanation on TVNZ's Breakfast yesterday.


A clip of the handshake has now been watched thousands of times on YouTube with viewers' opinion divided on whether it was Mr Lapasset or Mr Key who jumped the gun.

As it was, Mr Key almost missed the final whistle after IRB chief executive Mike Miller insisted he leave his seat to get ready for the official duties.

"About 10 minutes before the final whistle was blown we were told we had to go down to the field with Bernard Lapasset and a couple of other guys that were there," Mr Key told Radio New Zealand. "Mike Miller was telling us 'you've gotta go', Bernard Lapasset was going 'no, I'm not leaving', and I was with Bernard, I was thinking I want to watch this, but in the end Mike Miller overruled us."

The official party were thus forced to get into an elevator with the score at 8-7 to get down to the ground for the presentations, and didn't know if there had been any more action when they got to ground level.

"When the lift doors opened, walking along you could hear all this noise and I was just thinking, 'Please tell me this isn't France scoring."'

They eventually watched the last three minutes from ground level.