Just how did John Key get two of the biggest names in rugby to back his failed flag campaign?

It could have been as simple as a text message.

Former All Black captain Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, currently World Rugby Player of the Year, were texted by the Prime Minister and asked to watch his video promoting a change of New Zealand flag. They both went on to publicly support the campaign for change just weeks before voting began last month.

The detail was disclosed by the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, after an Official Information Act request from the Herald.


He said the Prime Minister didn't have copies of the text messages and couldn't remember the exact date. However, the messages were believed to have been sent after Mr Key's flag change video was released and before the shortlist of four flags was made public.

Mr Eagleson said the Prime Minister recalled asking McCaw by text to check out the page, being told the All Black would "have a look". He "may have had a similar text exchange with Dan Carter regarding the Facebook post around the same date".

Mr Eagleson said it was unclear whether Mr Key was texting in his role as Prime Minister, or in some other capacity which would mean the text messages were private. Rather than make a call on which role he was in while texting, Mr Key had volunteered the information.

The text to McCaw had previously been revealed by the Herald but the Prime Minister's reaching out to both McCaw and Carter shows his incredible range of contacts.

Mr Key's flag change video went wild on Facebook and has had more than 1,100,000 views. He made no secret of his preference for a flag with a silver fern, and wore a pin showing one of the alternative designs. In a referendum, the public chose to keep the current flag.