The East Terrace
'Allblackmail' the key to World Cup success?
James Stafford
July 22, 2011
A French fan gloats following his side's victory in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, France v New Zealand, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, October 6, 2007
French fans will be laughing on the other side of their face if New Zealand are knocked out prematurely in the forthcoming World Cup © Getty Images
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Tournaments/Tours: Rugby World Cup
Teams: New Zealand

Rumours are surfacing in the rugby world that the New Zealand Rugby Union may take extraordinary measures to ensure the host nation wins this year's World Cup.

Information has come to light that senior officials within the union have 'strongly implied' to Rugby World Cup organisers that if New Zealand are eliminated from the World Cup prior to the final the NZRU may give compassionate leave to all its employees and officials; thus rendering the continuation of the tournament an impossibility.

The 'threats' are believed to be a desperate attempt to lower the possibility of the All Blacks once again failing to grasp rugby's Holy Grail. New Zealand have been favourites in every World Cup since their only success in the inaugural tournament in 1987 (also held on home soil) yet have become known as 'chokers'. Five consecutive failures at the showpiece event appear to have led some rogue factions in the NZRU to consider dubious methods to increase the chances of victory for the Kiwis.

It is thought that the NZRU are contemplating granting all administrative staff, officials, stadium stewards and committee members one to two weeks leave (to be taken immediately) if New Zealand are knocked out of the World Cup. The NZRU will claim this is to make sure the 'passionate and committed' New Zealand public has a chance to come to terms with any failure by the All Blacks in the tournament.

Kiwi officials are believed to be citing past instances where New Zealand's losses in the World Cup have been accompanied by increased violence, drinking and depression in society. In a country obsessed with rugby the team's shortcomings are often discussed in the nation's parliament and some even claim it has an adverse effect on the economy.

One source at the NZRFU, who refused to reveal his identity, said the following: "We haven't confirmed anything, we are just debating a few things. I can assure you there is nothing cynical here, but people have to understand how much this World Cup means to the people of New Zealand.

"If we fail again it is really going to lead to a lot of soul searching and sadness. If that were to be the case the NZRU would like to think of the well being of their staff by giving them a few weeks off to think things over and deal with the shock. That might mean, of course, with all the staff on leave, we are unable to open any stadiums for subsequent fixtures such as the semi finals or finals.

"But what can we do? Should we expect our staff to soldier on and work whilst suffering? Is that moral, let alone safe? We need to ensure the emotional and physical well being of our employees. I'm sure rugby fans from around the world will support us in this gesture."

The blackmail, or 'allblackmail' as some RWC officials have labelled it, may well also extend to the hospitality and transport sectors. Senior figures in both industries have hinted they may adopt a similar strategy and close restaurants and hotels across the nation in the wake of any failure on the rugby field. This would leave countless rugby fans from across the world adrift with neither food nor accommodation.

The blackmail ploy has been described by one senior RWC official as nothing more than an outrageous version of the old 'it's my ball and I'm taking it home' whinge children in the park often use when playing games.

Senior figures in the national unions around the world are furious at the rumours and have demanded the NZRU make an official statement to clarify the matter. It is feared such threats may heavily influence refereeing decisions in favour of the All Blacks as the IRB would have too much to lose should the home team get eliminated.

The rumours come hot on the heels of the news that several of the top tier rugby nations found out last week that the high class hotels they believed they were staying in for the duration of the tournament have been closed down suddenly for 'long term refurbishment'. England, France, Australia and South Africa, all of whom selected and scouted their hotels several years ago, were subsequently informed their accommodation will be in the 'very best' caravan parks New Zealand has to offer. As a gesture of goodwill the NZRU promised that premium fish and chips will be delivered to the parks several times a day free of charge.

"It is very unfortunate that England, France and others won't be able to stay in their promised accommodation," said Joe Robinson of the NZRU. "But sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men came to naught. I assure all officials, players and fans that their new accommodation will be extremely cosy.

"My only concern ahead of the tournament is I heard a rumour that there is a chance that in September there may be a complete overhaul of visa requirements to enter New Zealand and, if that were the case, there may be a possibility it would be too late for our European and South African visitors to enter the country at all. That would be terrible and I really, really hope it doesn't happen."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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