New Zealand Rugby
Haden stuns Crusaders with race claims
May 28, 2010
Ti'i Paulo and the Crusaders celebrate their late try against the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, April 2, 2010
Ti'i Paulo (L) celebrates a try with his Crusaders team-mates © Getty Images

Former All Blacks captain Andy Haden has shocked New Zealand rugby by publicly claiming the Crusaders Super Rugby franchise systematically limit their squad to three non-white players.

Haden has jeopardised his role as a Rugby World Cup ambassador with the comments, which Crusaders management have strongly denied, but he isn't backing down from the claims he made on Sky TV's Deaker on Sport programme on Wednesday.

New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew has also rejected Haden's viewpoint while questioning whether it is "appropriate" that he retains his position as one of six World Cup ambassadors, an appointment made by World Cup Minister Murray McCully. A spokesman said on Friday the minister intended reading a transcript of the Deaker programme before making any comment.

Haden, who played 117 matches for the All Blacks between 1972-85 including 41 tests, said on Wednesday's broadcast: "Once they've recruited three, that's it. That's their ceiling. Three darkies... no more. In the Crusaders manual, there it is, it's enshrined in their articles, and they've stuck by that. And they know damn well that that's the case. And it's worked."

Despite the backlash, Haden is sticking to his guns. He told Radio New Zealand on Friday he had embellished what another former All Black skipper Chris Laidlaw had said in a recently published book. An unrepentant Haden clarified he was not talking about the exclusion of Maori players from the Crusaders but about Pacific Island players and admitted that he exaggerated by saying the policy was "in the manual and enshrined in their articles".

He said: "No, I don't regret it. I think it needs debating. Everyone gets very PC about this but the reality is the Crusaders have a different mix from everyone else and there's got to be a reason for that."

He said where this policy was most obvious was in the make-up of the Canterbury academy.

"A past All Black friend of mine was rung by a Canterbury coach and asked about a player and at the time he said to him, `We can only have two or three (players of Pacific Island extraction) in our franchise and we want to integrate them slowly'. It is still going on -- they want a franchise that has that flavour about it."

Haden said the issue he had raised had nothing to do with his World Cup role.

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said Haden's claims were untrue.

"The whole damn thing is a fiction. It's completely untrue. I don't know what he is referring to. It's utterly untrue. It makes no sense to me," Riach told Radio Sport on Thursday. "Our mission statement doesn't say that. It's an extraordinary claim that isn't based on any fact. I hope the story stops here with this denial."

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder told NewstalkZB he had been involved with the Crusaders a long time, and he had never seen any evidence Haden was right. He said it was unfortunate the comments had been made because they brought the game into disrepute and hurt people and reputations. Blackadder said Haden should front up on his source if he was making such wild claims. Haden has been invited to do so, but declined.

The Crusaders team, beaten in the Super 14 semi-finals by the Bulls last weekend, included Pacific Islanders Kahn Fotuali'i, Robbie Fruean and Ti'i Paulo.


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