Listening devices and Cold War Spy Thrillers

The recent bugging scandal of the All Blacks in Sydney this week has thrown the integrity of the Game into the foreground with the NSW police investigating the discovery of a sophisticated listening device in the team hotel meeting room where much of the All Blacks game plans had been discussed prior to the Bledisloe Cup.

We will go out on a limb here and suggest this has had nothing to do with the ARU and that this goes much deeper and darker than getting inside information regarding intricate plays. Spying for inside information regarding complex call codes in Rugby is nothing new. England were accused at the most recent World Cup by the Australian team of filming a closed training session in which a cameraman was chased by security after he was found lurking in the bushes at a closed training session last year. And go back a few years to 2005 former New Zealand coach Graham Henry accused England of filming his team after spotting two men in camouflage lurking with cameras near a closed session. In both cases the England team denied this and I am somewhat inclined to believe them.

Call codes for the uninitiated is a series of complex numbers words or letters designed to inform the lineout jumpers where the ball is headed to from the Hooker. Calls are also often used in backline plays however lineouts are where the advantage could be used to greater affect. However, it can be argued that in today’s modern game this is becoming more obsolete. As endless video reviews, analysis over calls, and simple body language reading (as mastered by South African great Victor Matfield) would have a far greater impact on this and is much easier to pour over than planting a bug of such high sophistication that it wouldn’t be out of place in a Russian spy thriller!

We think this has exposed the game of Rugby to the all to gloomy overhead of sports betting, which has infected most of the sporting world with ties to organised crime not far behind. Now not to create a story when there isn’t one and there is no evidence to suggest this theory is correct but the question we ask is this: who has more to gain from going to such lengths to record information? The Wallabies so they could potentially get information to the lineout jumper in the 10 seconds it takes to throw the ball in? And lets face it if the All Blacks had suspected this during the match a quick huddle pre lineout to throw them off would make the calls obsolete.

I would hope this gets the games power-brokers at World Rugby into action to ensure this is investigated thoroughly and ensure the scourge of gambling and the potential it has to ruin the sport does not infect our great game. It is naive to suggest that this hasn’t already become a problem. As a bastion of fair play Rugby can do without these poison jabs in the true gentlemans game and we must ensure steps are in place that any potential to ruin the sport in this murky underbelly is dealt with harshly and quickly before this becomes a larger problem.



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