Rugby World Cup: A history of off-field gaffes and blunders

9:59 am on 20 September 2015

As the Rugby World Cup kicks off this weekend Anna Whyte looks at some of the odder and more amusing off-field stories to have emerged to become part of World Cup folklore.


Before the launch of the 2015 Rugby World Cup kick this morning major odorous issues had rugby fanatics worried Twickenham would smell like the streets of 17th century London.

Twickenham is the home ground of English rugby.

Twickenham is the home ground of English rugby. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Sewage from the nearby treatment works had been wafting through the stands of the most crucial stadium of the tournament only a month before today's opening ceremony, with some organisers fearing patrons may turn their nose up at the smell, and the games.

Those living around Twickenham are less than amused with the Mogden Residents' Action Group describing the smell as "disgraceful".

The treatment plant can deal with 1600 million litres of sewage each day, yet $NZ300 million worth of odour reducing upgrades had still not put a lid on the smell.

Luckily the stink issue was resolved before fans flocked to the stadium this morning and not a clothes peg was to be seen at the opening ceremony.

Abstain for the game - Not backing black

Six weeks before the 2011 Rugby World Cup, former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick was driving a pink fist with a black purity ring, spieling an inspiring speech to avoid sexual activity as a pledge to our country.

Sean Fitzpatrick

Sean Fitzpatrick Photo: AFP

Telecom's abstain for the game bid went down with a less-than surprising thud, with ridicule of the campaign spreading internationally.

The campaign had been leaked even before it was launched to New Zealand, with the thought process aiming to take the ridiculous to the absurd.

Telecom came up with the idea from pre-game myths around abstaining before games, with the intention of turning it into a comedic promotion.

The campaign was pulled before it was aired due to widespread media scrutiny.

Adidas' frugal football jerseys

The All Black shirt is an iconic slice of New Zealand, from that moment when golden-boot and last-hope Stephen Donald pulled it on, to that moment when Sonny Bill Williams pulled it off.

All Blacks jersey 2013


So for international brand Adidas to attempt to force a rugby mad nation to pay more for their black, and even advised two websites to discontinue shipping their cheaper jerseys, resulted in New Zealand fans seeing red instead of black.

Adidas was forced to apologise to New Zealand for charging twice as much as what online shops were charging overseas.

Three-way handshake

The incident that goes down as one of New Zealand's most awkward moments, where the entire population collectively cringed at the uncomfortable close up of three hands becoming one.

Dubbed the three-way handshake: IRB boss Bernard Lapasset, PM John Key and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw with the Webb Ellis Cup at the conclusion of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Dubbed the three-way handshake: IRB boss Bernard Lapasset, PM John Key and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw with the Webb Ellis Cup at the conclusion of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Photosport

It could happen to anyone, but unfortunately for Prime Minister John Key, All Black Captain Richie McCaw and International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset it had to happen on the most watched event in New Zealand ever.

Food poisoning

It was ten years ago, but the scars are still sore on the side of New Zealand's world cup history.

Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar. Rugby World Cup Final, Ellis Park, 1995.

Francois Pienaar and Nelson Mandela shake hands during the presentation of the World Cup. Photo: Photosport

The mighty All Blacks were allegedly poisoned by a mysterious waitress called Suzie the night before the South African final, is how the legend goes.

Painstaking shots of the players vomiting on the side lines and then the heart crushing South African 15-12 victory were smeared across the screens of New Zealand television.

Colin Meads, who was the manager of the 1995 All Blacks side, reportedly laid the blame with milk.

After a big night out, Meads guzzled a few glasses of the hazardous milk to ward off a hangover, but received a dose of food poisoning instead.

However, South Africa disputes New Zealand's cries of foul, with the likes of then Springbok wing James Small calling it the "biggest load of sh*t I heard in my life".

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