The All Blacks' Ma'a Nonu looks on during their Test match against Italy in Rome in November 2012. Picture: REUTERS
The All Blacks' Ma'a Nonu looks on during their Test match against Italy in Rome in November 2012. Picture: REUTERS

The All Blacks expressed surprise on Tuesday after a trusted security consultant was charged with bugging their hotel before the 2016 Test against Australia in Sydney, and called the accusation "bizarre".

The world champions’ coach Steve Hansen said he found it difficult to understand after the man was charged with public mischief and ordered to appear in a Sydney court on March 21.

The device, planted inside a chair, was found during a routine team security sweep of a meeting room used by the New Zealanders before the opening Rugby Championship Test in August. The incident raised tensions between the teams and dominated headlines on the day of the game, which the All Blacks won 42-8.

"Frankly, the charge seems bizarre and unbelievable. It’s very hard to understand," Hansen said. "The charged man has worked for the All Blacks and many other organisations and is someone who is trusted and well respected by us.

"However, as with all cases before the courts, there has to be a due process … and it is not right for us to make any further comment as this could jeopardise the outcome of the case."

A New South Wales police statement earlier said: "A man has been charged after a listening device was located in a room at a Sydney hotel last year."

At the time, the police could not determine the range of the device — described as similar to that used by law enforcement and spying agencies — or how long it had been in place.

Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver has denied any involvement by his organisation. On Tuesday, he said the disclosure of the device on the day of the Test had left a "bitter taste".

According to reports, the bug had been detected five days earlier.

"The aspect that still leaves a bitter taste out of this 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 earlier in the week leading up to the Test match," he said. "Clearly, the media attention which resulted from it was a distraction that neither team needed on the morning of a very important Test match."

Pulver added: "There may be some questions that remain but it is welcome news that an individual has been called to account over this incident."

Australian media have accused the All Blacks of paranoia for routinely sweeping for bugs, an accusation the team rejected.

AFP

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