Leaked email sheds light on All Blacks civil war

New Zealand Rugby will not publicly respond to Sir Steve Hansen’s withering attack on the national body, believing the best thing to do is say nothing.

In an internal email to staff, which has been leaked to Stuff, chief communications and brand officer Charlotte McLauchlan acknowledged Hansen’s comments but went on to claim that sometimes the best course of action is “to say nothing.”

Former All Blacks coach Hansen on Thursday accused NZR of presiding over a series of failures in an astonishing attack that labeled the relationship between the All Blacks players and the board as “the worst it’s ever been.”

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Hansen came out firing in a radio interview after weeks of fierce public criticism of the All Blacks, with coach Ian Foster taking all the flak while NZR stayed silent.

Hansen accused NZR of airing its dirty laundry, pointing to the recent reviews into Foster and former Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore, the latter parting ways with the team in World Cup year.

He was also scathing of NZR’s high performance unit.

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Sources within NZR say many staff members are unhappy with the fact chief executive Mark Robinson, who is in Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games, has essentially left Foster to face the music by himself since the series loss to Ireland.

In the email to staff, McLauchlan, said: “Many of you will have seen the remarks made by Sir Steve Hansen in the media today and having spoken to Robbo (Robinson) and Lendo (general manager of professional rugby Chris Lendrum), we wanted to give you all a bit of a sense of where we are at with it.

“We appreciate and understand the wide range of views around the game at the moment – ​​including those of Sir Steve – but our priority right now is to support the All Blacks and their new coaching line up to have a successful series in South Africa – as well as our Commonwealth Games teams and our domestic competitions which have begun at home.

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“While many of the things Sir Steve has said are unfair and hurtful to many, we do not think entering into a media debate with him is the right thing to do – if we come back to our priorities which is for our teams to ‘win with mana,’ we think this will only serve to create another media cycle and possibly more distraction.

“The level of passion around our game at the moment is of course a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it’s appropriate to comment and sometimes it’s not, and while we are trying hard to be an organization that is fundamentally open, honest and transparent, sometimes the most powerful thing to do is to say nothing – and understand that the narrative then being ‘NZR refusing to comment’ is sometimes just the ‘least worst’ option because it offers no fuel.”

But the hits kept coming on Friday as former NZR boss David Moffett, an Australian, called for Robinson to resign in the wake of the messy All Blacks coaching saga.

Moffett, who was NZR chief executive between 1996-2000 and held the same role at the NRL, believes Robinson should leave his post, and found it deplorable that he was “swanning around in Birmingham” instead of fronting media in New Zealand.

Asked if he felt Robinson, who was appointed in 2019 to replace Steve Tew, was up to the task, Moffett was blunt in his assessment.

“No, I don’t think so. That’s where I would disagree with Steve (Hansen). Steve said that he thinks he’ll make a good CEO one day,” Moffett said.

“Well, the chief executive of New Zealand Rugby is right up there in terms of publicity and persona as the prime minister. I found in my day I used to do more media than the prime minister on some days.

“We don’t need a CEO to learn how to be a CEO at New Zealand Rugby. We need somebody who knows what they’re doing, and if they make mistakes, like we all do, they can just own it.

“Don’t hide, don’t blame the board if they make decisions, it’s him, he’s the chief executive, the buck stops with him. The board sets strategy and policy, that’s it, as far as I’m concerned. rest of the time the chief executive is running the place.

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“I feel for these guys, because I’ve been there. But I never ducked the media. I always fronted, always took the flak, never made excuses. And that’s what we need to see in our chief executive. Robinson needs to get back here and he needs to front the media and he needs to tell them what’s gone wrong, what he’s doing about it and be open, instead of hiding away up there in Birmingham. “

Asked if he felt Robinson should resign, Moffett was equally frank.

“Yes, I think he should,” he said.

“Because this is just the tip of the iceberg. Any rugby CEO who does not understand that rugby is too much of a business to be a sport and too much of a sport to be a business – ie. you’ve got to get that balance right – is always going to struggle.”

Adding to the chaos, Moffett felt, was that NZR had refused to talk following Hansen’s broadside on Thursday.

“Oh fair dinkum, obviously they are further out of touch with reality than even I think that they are when they do that sort of thing,” Moffett said.

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“They said ‘well you’ll only just start another round of news on any subject’. Well, guess what, because Mark Robinson’s swanning around over there in Birmingham and not fronting the media, it leaves a huge gap for people like me and other commentators to actually come in and say what has to be said.

“And I found it incredible that he isn’t back here in New Zealand, standing in front of the media and explaining his decisions, defending his decisions, but also defending his staff.

“Steve was right when he said what he said, and things must be grim for Steve Hansen to come out publicly and slate New Zealand Rugby the way he did, because he doesn’t normally do that.”

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