New Zealand
Leading All Blacks misused sleeping pills
March 20, 2014
Wide awake in a dream ... Israel Dagg and Cory Jane celebrate victory in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final © Getty Images

Two leading All Blacks took part in a competition during the 2011 Rugby World Cup to see who could stay awake the longest after taking sleeping pills.

New Zealand board (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew admitted that Cory Jane and Israel Dagg were involved in the incident when they went out drinking ahead of New Zealand's quarter-final against Argentina.

Jane and Dagg were disciplined at the time and the NZRU said the pair had been drinking alcohol and there was no mention of sleeping pills.

"That issue was dealt with by team management and the leadership group in the All Blacks, and I remain comfortable it was dealt with appropriately," Tew said. "Sleeping pills came up at the time, but we didn't have a major red flag about it particularly.

"If it happened now, with the apparent issue we have around sleeping pills and energy drinks, then we'd probably take a different course of action. But at the time it was not a hot topic."

Cory Jane on the attack, New Zealand v Argentina, 2011 World Cup, Eden Park, Auckland, October 9, 2011
No ill effects ... Cory Jane on the attack against Argentina in the quarter-final © PA Photos

Prescription sleeping pills are in the spotlight because of growing concern in rugby league about their use in combination with energy drinks. Such "recovery practices" are under scrutiny in a New Zealand Rugby League review into the Kiwis' unsuccessful defence of the Rugby League World Cup late last year.

"At the time we struggled to understand how taking a sleeping pill could keep you up late at night and getting into trouble," Tew said. "It still seems counter intuitive doesn't it. They were drinking. There's no question about that. At the time there was mention of sleeping pills but the key was they were out past the curfew, they were drinking two or three days before the quarter-final.

"They let the team down, they let themselves down and it was dealt with as we'd expect them to be dealt with... As I understand it, it was almost as silly as let's have some sleeping pills and see who can stay up the longest."

But Tew stressed there had been no cover-up and referred to it being a "private employment matter … remember we are bound by some stringent legislation as is everybody else in this country is. The incident that occurred that night was at a level where it was dealt with internally by the team."

New Zealand Rugby had no immediate plans to ban sleeping pills, Tew said. "We play a game that involves a lot of international travel and some people need assistance to sleep in the plane and when they get to where they're going. To take that out of our tool kit, I think would be a very big call. I wouldn't be suggesting that right now, but we'll keep all our options open."

He said that sleeping pills were administered only sparingly. "The doctors dish them out on a very strict regime; it's impossible for them to stockpile from what they get from our doctors."

New Zealand Rugby announced recently that it was establishing an integrity unit, following in the footsteps of high-profile Australian codes. The unit, to be in place within six months, will cover all integrity issues facing players including match-fixing, legal and illegal drugs, and alcohol.

Tew said that New Zealand Rugby also was conducting a survey of its Super Rugby teams and people involved with the professional game, such as doctors, physiotherapists and coaches.

"We're just trying to get a handle about what might be going on inside those environments, the regularity of sleeping pills being used while people are travelling, and making sure procedures are followed," he said. "Our guys live in a very tight environment for long periods of time so while we don't know everything that everybody's doing all the time, it's hard to keep too many secrets inside that team environment."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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