'Bizarre' charge in rugby's hotel bugging case



New Zealand Rugby had reported that a room had been bugged in Sydney’s Double Bay Intercontinental Hotel, where the All Blacks held meetings before August’s Bledisloe Cup clash with the Wallabies.

New South Wales police said Tuesday that a 51-year-old man, who was employed as a security consultant at the time of the alleged offense, had been charged with public mischief.

He will appear in court on March 21.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen described the charge as “bizarre” and “unbelievable.”

“The charged man has worked for the All Blacks, and many other organizations, for a long time and is someone who is well respected by us,” the 57-year-old said in a statement released by New Zealand Rugby.

“However, as with all cases before the courts, there has to be a due process that takes place and it is not right or proper for us to make any further comment as this could jeopardize the outcome of the case.”

‘Still leaves a bitter taste’

Bill Pulver, chief executive of Australia Rugby Union (ARU), praised the police.

“The aspect that still leaves a bitter taste out of this whole affair is that the discovery of the device was reported publicly on game day, when it is understood that the alleged discovery of the device occurred much earlier in the week leading up to the Test match,” he said in a statement.

“Clearly the media attention which resulted from it was a distraction that neither team needed on the morning of a very important Test match.

“The ARU and the Wallabies were never accused of any wrongdoing, however it was still important that this matter reached a conclusion to provide complete reassurance to all fans that the organization and the team had no part in any of this.

“There may be some questions that remain but certainly today’s news is welcome news that an individual has been called to account over this incident.”

The All Blacks, ranked the world’s best rugby union team, went on to beat Australia 42-8 in the match to record their biggest win over the Wallabies on Australian soil in 113 years.

Hansen’s team set a new world record with its 18th consecutive victory in the third and final Bledisloe Cup series fixture in Auckland in October, but lost to Ireland in Chicago in its next game.

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