SYDNEY - The meal that poisoned a group of senior All Blacks before the 1995 Rugby World Cup final was eaten at a restaurant outside the team hotel, a hotel executive has claimed.

Tony Rubin, who was on the management of the Crowne Hotel in Sandton where the All Blacks were based, said the mysterious waitress ``Suzie'' did not exist.

He said the group of All Blacks had gone to a restaurant outside the hotel and eaten seafood on the Friday night before the final at Ellis Park.

After they became sick, the players decided to keep their unauthorised nocturnal prawn feast from their coach, Laurie Mains, as they feared his wrath, national South African newspaper the Independent on Saturday reported.

After they lost the final to South Africa in which some players were clearly affected by illness, Mains blamed the hotel and said he had been told a waitress named ``Suzie' was the phantom poisoner.

Rubin though said he felt it was time to tell the truth behind the Suzie story after it was resurrected in New Zealand's Rugby News last week.

``I never met Suzie, there was no Suzie. She didn't exist. We knew what had happened (players going to the restaurant), but (hotel chain) Southern Sun took a decision not to talk about the incident,'' Rubin said.

The All Blacks management always maintained the players became ill two days before the final after a meal at the Crowne, contrasting with Rubin's claim it was after a Friday night meal outside the hotel.

Mains went as far as employing a private investigator in an attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The investigator reported back that a Far Eastern betting syndicate had paid a waitress called Suzie at the All Blacks' hotel to put something in their water.

Mains' claims were backed by Rory Steyn, a South African security guard assigned to the team, in his book released in 2000.

Steyn, a former head of security for South African president Nelson Mandela, wrote in his book One Step Behind Mandela the All Blacks had ``definitely been poisoned''.

Mains told NZPA in 2000 he had no doubt as to what happened and welcomed Steyn's claims.

``I'm relieved that someone of such importance in South Africa has acknowledged that the food poisoning occurred,'' Mains said.

``It's comforting that he has written about it... I think it is comforting for the entire All Black party that was there.''

Mains' claims were backed up at the time by team officials Sir Brian Lochore and Colin Meads.

- NZPA