All Blacks skirt sex campaign ahead of test

Last updated 19:43 17/08/2011
Lyle McMahon

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HOLDING OUT: An All Blacks sponsor will call for fans to make a sacrifice in support of their Rugby World Cup campaign.

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The All Blacks are refusing to be drawn into the controversial Backing Black abstinence campaign.

The team were on a scheduled day off today but assistant coach Steve Hansen fronted a brief media opportunity at the team hotel.

"Please, let's not go there," was his response to a query about abstinence.

Hansen said their focus was on beating the Springboks in their Tri-Nations test this weekend.

Telecom and the New Zealand Rugby Union confirmed today that All Blacks coach Graham Henry was approached to front the controversial campaign.

But both organisations dispute claims that he was against the campaign, saying he was unable to be involved due to time limitations as the All Blacks prepare for the Rugby World Cup.

Multiple sources had earlier told Fairfax Media that Henry was against the campaign and didn't want to be involved.

Backing Black has been described as a ''tongue in cheek'' campaign which calls on All Black fans to abstain from sex during the World Cup and will be fronted by former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick. Backing Black is also endorsed by the NZRU as the All Blacks' official fan club.

''Very early on, the idea of including Graham Henry in this campaign was discussed with the NZRU, as Graham is a fan of the 'Abstain for the Game' concept and was keen to be involved,'' Telecom's chief marketing officer Kieren Cooney said in an emailed statement to Fairfax Media after the company took umbrage at the report that Henry did not want to be involved.

''However after discussion with the NZRU and Graham we all agreed that his focus should be only on winning rugby games, at which point we approached Sean.

''For the same reason, at no time have we approached any of the players themselves or discussed any elements of the campaign with them.''

The NZRU also emailed a statement to Fairfax quoting chief executive Steve Tew.

''In the early phases Graham was one of the celebrity options discussed to front the campaign," Tew said.  "Graham was interested in being part of the campaign and certainly did not say it was a terrible idea, but it was agreed that for 2011 the key area of focus needed to be on preparing for the big season ahead.

''The players were not involved in discussions around the concept and theme as the campaign is about the fans and does not involve the players.

"Telecom and BB (Backing Black) are great supporters of the All Blacks and they put a lot of energy and creativity into getting fans involved."

Earlier in the day, Mark Watts, Telecom's head of external media, had told Fairfax Media the company had no comment on claims Henry was the initial choice to front the controversial campaign and that Fitzpatrick was brought in after the All Blacks coach refused.

 ''I think that is pure speculation. I can only talk about what I know and I know that Fitzy is the right man for the job ... all credit to Fitzy," Watts said.

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Fairfax's sources say Henry did not like the campaign and that senior players were aware of its controversial nature as well.

''Ted [Graham Henry] didn't want to have anything to with it. McCaw and other senior players thought it was a terrible idea and also didn't want to be a part of it,'' said the source who is from within the top-level rugby community.

Another source close to the Backing Black campaign also confirmed Henry had been approached and had rejected an invitation to front the campaign.

''An NZRU person told me Ted was offered a shitload of money to front it but refused.''

The same source said a senior NZRU official told Telecom ''this is the most stupid idea ever'' but said Telecom dug in over the proposed campaign.

The Backing Black campaign - led by Telecom, one of the New Zealand Rugby Union's key sponsors - is intended to galvanise support behind the men in black as they chase their first World Cup title in 24 years.

Telecom bosses wouldn't talk about the specifics of the campaign.

But it is understood Backing Black's call for sexual abstinence will be launched nationwide on Sunday with simultaneous TV commercials to be broadcast at about 8.40pm.

A source said the advertising campaign would be ''bright and bold'' including posters, billboards and adverts emblazoned onto buses.

During the planning stage of Backing Black, ideas included posters being placed at eye level in men's urinals in bars and restaurants urging men who are urinating to ''think of your Mum in a bikini... abstain for the All Blacks''.

Advertising executives also considered placing cold showers outside popular bars to show that publicans were committed to hosing down anyone tempted to break their vow of chastity.

Advertising executives also considered placing cold showers outside popular bars to show that publicans were committed to hosing down anyone tempted to break their vow of chastity. 


- Stuff


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