Exclusive: NZ flanker at tournament describes his encounter with desperate Briton on the eve of final against Springboks.

An English bookie working in the All Blacks' hotel at the 1995 World Cup plays a role in the latest twist in the mystery about the team's poisoning on the eve of the final.

All Black flanker Paul Henderson says in the week of the final he ran into a man who was "heavy, had days of stubble and was sweating profusely " who claimed his business would go under if the All Blacks won the tournament.

"He was talking about it, freaking about it and if anyone was going to have the motivation then it would have to be that chap up there," Henderson recalls.

In a range of video interviews with Wynne Gray for nzherald.co.nz and a written series in The NZ Herald , the All Blacks campaign manager Brian Lochore, manager Colin Meads, coach Laurie Mains, team Dr Mike Bowen, captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Springbok Joel Stransky and referee Ed Morrison give us their insights into events surrounding the 1995 RWC.

His memories add another layer to claims the All Blacks were nobbled on the eve of the final, which they lost 15-12 in extra-time in Johannesburg. New Zealand Rugby did not press the issue, but coach Laurie Mains began his own inquiries.

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He discovered a black woman was hired by the hotel two days before the All Blacks' arrival and left the day after they became ill. The team think some toxin was added to the urns of tea and coffee in their meal room.

In a range of video interviews with Wynne Gray for nzherald.co.nz and a written series in The NZ Herald , the All Blacks campaign manager Brian Lochore, manager Colin Meads, coach Laurie Mains, team Dr Mike Bowen, captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Springbok Joel Stransky and referee Ed Morrison give us their insights into events surrounding the 1995 RWC.

Team doctor Mike Bowen suspected foul play but had no proof, while Mains later met a businessman in London who said word through the finance markets was that bookies were behind the incident.

Nothing more surfaced until Henderson read the recent Herald series about the 1995 Rugby World Cup. It stirred his recall and corroborated Mains' theories.

All Black Paul Henderson.
All Black Paul Henderson.

Henderson was not in the starting side or reserves for the final and after Thursday training ate lunch in his room and escaped the suspicious tea and coffee in the team room. The Southlander was part of an All Black group who liaised with local business and rugby groups.

Several floors above the All Blacks he met a mystery bookie who was very agitated and wanted to buy tickets to the final. He was English and apparently attended all the major sports events such as Wimbledon, the Grand Prix, the British Open and matches at Twickenham.

"He was freaking out and saying all these things. He said he was going to go under, because if the All Blacks won and he had to honour his bets then he was out the back door," Henderson says.

"Did I go up to a room and meet an English bookie? Yes. Did he say all those things? Yes.

"Was he freaking out he was going to be tipped over because he had to honour all the bets on the All Blacks? Yes, that's the way it was."

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Why has Henderson remained tight-lipped for two decades about his suspicions on one of the great modern All Black mysteries?

He retired from test rugby after that World Cup and was rarely in contact with any of the squad. He's told a few of his mates about his suspicions but has not run into Mains to discuss those thoughts.

"I did not connect it to anything else until I read the (Herald) articles and went 'wait on, this might be connected'. It is an historical event.

"To me it was like if you join up the dots, there is another strand in the mystery. We are never going to know but it adds another piece.

"It was tragic for the team because it was playing fantastic rugby and in any of the World Cups, it was the one which stood above the rest and to be involved with it and to see guys falling over left right and centre ...

"I was one of about five who did not get sick."

In a range of video interviews with Wynne Gray for nzherald.co.nz and a written series in The NZ Herald , the All Blacks campaign manager Brian Lochore, manager Colin Meads, coach Laurie Mains, team Dr Mike Bowen, captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Springbok Joel Stransky and referee Ed Morrison give us their insights into events surrounding the 1995 RWC.

Henderson recalled seeing manager Colin Meads in a bad way and watched the All Blacks turn up for their final practice without any energy. It was a wretched way to end a glorious run at the tournament.

After the final, the All Blacks did not want to take any gloss from the Springboks victory. They intended to be gracious in defeat at an event which had such huge ramifications for South Africa.

"That was the climate of the time. You don't jump out there and tell everyone what you think just because I was in a room with a guy who wanted to buy a whole lot of tickets and was concerned that everything was going to tip over," says Henderson.

"All of New Zealand probably got up that morning to watch the All Blacks and here were guys spewing on the touchline and then getting through 100 minutes.

"After all this time, maybe New Zealand needs to know some of the circumstances behind it and make their own deductions about what may have happened or not."

In a range of video interviews with Wynne Gray for nzherald.co.nz and a written series in The NZ Herald , the All Blacks campaign manager Brian Lochore, manager Colin Meads, coach Laurie Mains, team Dr Mike Bowen, captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Springbok Joel Stransky and referee Ed Morrison give us their insights into events surrounding the 1995 RWC.