February 8, 2017 / 5:49 AM / a year ago

Rugby-Australia fumes after All Blacks security man charged in 'spygate'

MELBOURNE, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The revelation that police had charged a security consultant hired by the All Blacks in the ‘spygate’ saga was viewed dimly in Australia on Wednesday, with local media queuing up to demand New Zealand apologise over the affair.

Australian police said on Tuesday they had arrested and charged a 51-year-old man with public mischief after an investigation into the discovery of a listening device at the All Blacks’ hotel in Sydney ahead of a match against the Wallabies last year.

State media later identified the man as Adrian Gard, who had consulted for the All Blacks for a decade as well as arranging security for former U.S. President Bill Clinton and other celebrities.

The All Blacks’ management waited five days before reporting the discovery of the bug and held a media conference on the morning of the match, angering the Wallabies team who felt the announcement was ill-timed and had caused an unnecessary distraction.

The All Blacks never accused Australia or the Wallabies of wrongdoing but the incident fuelled a predictable wave of opprobrium on social media while souring relations between the teams throughout the season.

“Probably now would be a good time to say sorry, New Zealand,” Wally Mason, sports editor of The Australian newspaper wrote in an editorial published on Wednesday, describing the incident as an “inside job”.

”So rather than the Wallabies cheating by attempting to bug the All Blacks, the Kiwis got an unfair advantage by unsettling the Australians.

“Your apology will be gratefully accepted, New Zealand.”

Former Wallaby and media pundit Peter FitzSimons was also asking for contrition in his column for Fairfax Media, but from New Zealand fans rather than the nation’s rugby establishment.

“It seems (Wallabies coach) Michael Cheika wasn’t behind the All Black bugging scandal of August last year, hadn’t placed a listening device in their team room at the Double Bay InterContinental in Sydney,” he wrote.

“Far from it being anyone in the Australian camp, as was darkly insinuated in the Kiwi rugby community, the true culprit.”

The All Blacks thrashed the Wallabies in Sydney after reporting the bug and swept them 3-0 for the season.

The bad blood boiled to the surface after the All Blacks completed the sweep at Eden Park in October, with Cheika launching a tirade against the team for lacking “respect” by failing to report the device until game-day.

The All Blacks said they had delayed reporting the discovery to police until they had discussed it with the hotel’s management and then briefed NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew, who was attending the Rio Olympics.

Gard was served notice to appear at a Sydney court on March 21.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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