It is always dangerous to invite the Government to your party. If the Rugby Union had not acquired a minister for the World Cup it would not be lumbered with an "ambassador" like Andy Haden.

Heaven knows why the minister, Murray McCully, didn't sack him last weekend. The fellow has no future as a credible promoter of the event. Every time he speaks now people will remember his racial theory of success.

A private enterprise would certainly have sacked him, particularly one that needs to project the image of the very people he has insulted. The organisers of Rugby World Cup 2011, as McCully well knows, have carefully given the event a Pacific brand.

Its images and insignia have a Polynesian character and the opening match will feature not France, which is also in the All Blacks pool, but Tonga.

When chief executive Martin Sneddon announced that decision he said nothing, he simply pressed the button on a video projector.

A big screen behind him lit up with footage from a previous World Cup when Tonga answered the All Black haka. It was intensity, authentic, splendid.

The amplified thump of each haka was like thunder in the stadium until the crowd's roar reached a crescendo that drowned all other sound.

Sneddon switched of the video and smiled. Nothing needed to be said. This is Polynesia.

When tourists come to the South Pacific they are not enticed by a little slice of displaced Europe or a diminished version of Australia. We need to be Polynesia.

And we are, more than we know. When you hear Maori music in a distant part of the world, you sense that those around you are hearing palm trees, ocean, paradise.

There will be four South Pacific teams at next year's World Cup: Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand. They will all have large local followings who will lend support to any of them against teams from other parts of the world.

New Zealand, uniquely, represents all of them. It has been a long time since an All Black team lacked Samoans and Tongans and if it is lucky it will have Fijians like Joe Rokocoko on form.

In places such as Wales, where I worked for awhile, they think we comb the islands for big, strong, fast, instinctive players who can run like Nonu, tackle like Jerry Collins, link like Michael Jones and lead like Umaga.

I remember the disbelief on Welsh faces every time I told them, "They're Kiwis, mate. They've been in New Zealand probably all their lives."

But I didn't mind the disbelief. It located this country in the South Pacific and recognised its metropolitan status in the Polynesian world. New Zealand's foreign policy projects the same identity, as Foreign Minister McCully well knows.

I hope his foreign diplomacy is better than his domestic effort this week.

After meeting his errant "ambassador" last Sunday McCully told reporters Haden would be kept on because he had apologised for using the word "darkies".

As for Haden's theory about the Canterbury Crusaders, McCully said the individual Super 14 franchises dealt with player selections and that was a debate he was not prepared to take part in.


Asked if he had seen any evidence that Haden's comments might be true, he said, "I am not responsible for the Crusaders' selection policy."


"If someone came along and suggested there was something vastly improper or unlawful taking place in a sporting franchise, then that would be a different matter," he said. "But there is a debate here that I do not need to get involved in ..."

He believes it. Maybe he has to give Haden's view some credence if he is going to keep him on, but why keep him on?

For his connections, McCully said. The man is in touch with a lot of rugby people around the world. I shudder to think that his conversations with them now carry a ministerial endorsement.

Rugby, like any male gathering, has more than its quota of blowhards. Male conversation is competitive; men pretend to listen to a yarn while waiting to tell one to top it.

When this is happening wild conjecture can turn to claims of corroborated fact and they hardly notice. Haden had to admit he'd exaggerated the bit about the quota being written in a franchise manual. He realised that bit could be disproved.

Canterbury's Super 14 side has been notably whiter than others but it pays to be wary of obvious explanations.

Thinking people are always wary of them. I'm not surprised at Haden and wouldn't now care what he said if McCully hadn't wilted last weekend. Now the "World Cup of the Pacific" has to carry him.

Sneddon has maintained a diplomatic silence through it all. I bet he has been privately pounding a wall.