Ireland respond to spying accusations ahead of World Cup quarter-final with All Blacks

Mike Catt was left bemused by a question from New Zealand media

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Ireland have laughed off bizarre suggestions that they have been spying on the All Blacks ahead of their Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Paris.

During an eve-of-match press conference at the Stade de France on Friday morning, Ireland assistant coach Mike Catt was asked by a journalist from New Zealand whether they had sent a team photographer to watch the All Blacks train.

“Did you have a photographer at the All Blacks training session yesterday? Is that something you’d normally do?” questioned the journalist. A slightly bemused Catt then laughingly replied: “I’m sorry, I wasn’t a part of that, so…”

In the days leading up to a match, teams will generally have a ‘media vision access’ portion of their training session – often just 15 minutes – open to accredited media, including photographers.

Ireland’s largest dedicated sports photo agency Inpho have a number of accredited photographers covering the World Cup and they often work closely with the Irish team during tournaments, although are an independent agency and would be perfectly entitled to attend the open section of the All Blacks’s training.


Following Catt’s response to the question, Ireland’s media officer said: “I don’t know. The agency could have been there working.” The World Cup official in charge of the press conference then also clarified the regulations around media vision access, stating: “The rules say yes, as long as they’re standing with the rest of the photographers, they can [be there at training].”

Parts of team training are open for media to view, photograph and record

Ireland enter Saturday’s quarter-final against New Zealand in the unusual position of being favourites, as they look to win a World Cup knockout match for the first time in their history.

This incident isn’t the first ‘spygate’ story in the tournament’s history, with then-England coach Eddie Jones accusing the All Blacks of spying on his side ahead of the 2019 semi-final between the sides. Jones said the England security team became aware of someone using a long-lens camera to film their entire training session from a window of a nearby apartment block in the run-up to the last-four clash.

“There was definitely someone in the apartment block filming but it might have been a Japanese fan,” Jones said at the time. “I don’t care, mate. Everyone knows what everyone does so there are no surprises in world rugby any more. We knew [we were being filmed] from the start, it doesn’t change anything, we love it.”

Jones also made similar claims when coach of Australia at the 2003 World Cup, again ahead of a semi-final against New Zealand.

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