The East Terrace
IRB caught in WikiLeaks firing line
James Stafford
December 10, 2010
Supporters hit the streets in support of the WikiLeaks website following the publication of the latest in a long line of controversial documents © Getty Images
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The International Rugby Board and several leading national rugby unions have been rocked by a series of major scandals after the infamous WikiLeaks website released thousands of documents that were never meant to be publically viewed.

The fallout from the publication of hundreds of embarrassing emails, letters, notes and minutes belonging to the IRB and governing bodies, such as the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and French Rugby Federation (FFR), could lead to years of frosty international rugby diplomacy as nations come to terms with often blunt comments or accusations from rivals and supposed allies.

WikiLeaks have stood by the publication of all the documents claiming that the rugby world and its operations should be 'transparent and open'.

One rugby insider has claimed that some aggrieved unions have already made threats to withdraw from major tournaments such as the Six Nations or even the Rugby World Cup as a result of the WikiLeaks scandals.

Among the most damaging revelations is a top secret dossier from the IRB complaining that the 2011 World Cup should never have been awarded to New Zealand as the country 'wouldn't know a decent bloody draught beer if it came in from the wrong side of a ruck and trampled all over them'.

The statement, written by a senior IRB official, goes on to say that: "I can take the fact New Zealand doesn't really have enough big modern stadiums for a World Cup, I can accept that they may not have the infrastructure relating to transport and accommodation and I can accept the fact the ticket sales aren't going to be as big as in previous tournaments, but I can't accept the fact I won't be able to get a bloody decent draught beer for the four weeks I have to be at the tournament. We (the IRB) messed up big time on this one and I want heads to roll. We need to look at our whole World Cup bidding process and ensure this never happens again."

Another controversial secret missive from the IRB apparently warned various national unions to be on their guard when visiting Ireland over the coming few years. Due to the current dire economic situation in the Republic of Ireland the IRB feared that unnamed Irish rugby persons may choose to ply visiting guests with Guinness and whiskey and then 'indirectly drop hints about possible loans of equipment, kit and labour' to help cushion the financial impact of the economic crisis on Irish rugby.

"It is very possible," said the statement from the IRB, "that loans of tracksuits, shorts and electrical tape (for keeping players' socks up during matches) may not be returned, if at all, for many years. We urge unions and visiting kit/bag men to be vigilant." The IRFU are said to be seriously offended by the allegations.

Among other serious revelations made by WikiLeaks are the following:

  • Stade Francais players wrote series of letters 'begging with all their hearts' to be allowed to wear, for just one week, a set of kit that did not make them look like clowns/question their own masculinity.

  • RFU officials and the English media met with Vatican officials several times to try and get World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson made into fully fledged Catholic Saint before the 2011 World Cup. Merchandise sales and profits from associated Saint Jonny relics were to be split 50/50 between London and Rome if the deal was a success.

  • A Scottish plan to aim to score at least one try per game for the 2011 Six Nations was widely mocked by several unions in a series of circular emails as 'utterly unrealistic'.

  • Cardiff Blues are planning a shock move to the Millennium Stadium in 2012 due to problems coping with capacity at new ground Cardiff City Stadium. Emails from Blues' management have indicated the recent decision to abandon their historic city centre ground (which they rarely ever filled) to play in a soulless Lego-style stadium (which they never ever fill) was 'just not crazy enough'.

  • South Africa considered hiring an interpreter to speak 'for, on behalf and instead of' outspoken head coach Peter de Villiers at all matches, press conferences, public appearances and training sessions. One extreme memo indicates a plan by SARU to give de Villiers a significant bonus each year if he never ever spoke at all in public.

  • The IRB's referees boss Paddy O'Brien sent a series of emails to friends claiming the constant controversial law changes to rugby union in recent years were the result of a forfeit he had to perform after losing a drunken game of 'rock, paper, scissors' in a pub late one night.

  • Welsh Rugby Union officials refused The Victorian Society's request to classify Rodney Parade, home of the Newport Gwent Dragons, as a listed building and turn the ground into a 'living museum'. Apparently the WRU were initially happy to agree to the museum being created but then relented when talks broke down over the use (or lack of) the word 'Gwent' in the potential museum's name. Using 'Gwent' was deemed 'too political'.

  • Result of 2011 World Cup final leaked.

The IRB have produced a confidential memo on the WikiLeaks affair, which they expect to be leaked online next week, so that the wider public can read their response.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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