Craftsman plays down speculation drugs 'snorted' off Ranfurly Shield, believes it could be plaster

The craftsman of the Ranfurly Shield is playing down speculation the mystery white powder on Ranfurly Shield could be drugs, instead believing it might be plaster.   

It comes after Hawke's Bay won the shield in dramatic fashion on Saturday afternoon but a little over 24 hours later photos emerged of it split in half.   

Police confirmed on Monday afternoon a 24-year-old player has been charged with drink driving. At 3:35am on Sunday, a car allegedly hit a fence in Napier, leading to the charge.  

A "deeply disappointed" NZ Rugby is investigating the photo and says it will repossess the shield to assess the damage.

An image circulating on social media appears to show white powder on the shield, with the caption: "They snorted drugs off the frickin Ranfurly."  

Craftsman plays down speculation drugs 'snorted' off Ranfurly Shield, believes it could be plaster
Photo credit: Supplied

But James Dwan, the craftsman behind creating the latest version of the Ranfurly Shield, played down speculation that drugs were "snorted" off the shield.   

"I have a feeling it's plaster of paris. I put some plaster inside the shield to strengthen the centrepiece a couple of years ago and I just got a funny feeling it's a little bit of the plaster. I will know more on Thursday when I see the shield," he said.   

"The centre section is fairly weak and so we put plaster in behind to try and prevent it from getting dented. So, it's pretty much what it was done." 

Hawke's Bay Rugby told the national body the shield broke when it was dropped on a concrete kitchen floor but two-cap All Black Folau Fakatava, the man holding the trophy in pictures circulated, was not responsible.   

"We've had some pretty consistent feedback out of Hawke's Bay that it was dropped," said New Zealand Rugby general manager of community rugby Steve Lancaster.     

"Dropped from a reasonable height by a fairly tall player, I'm told, onto a high surface."    

Lancaster said the shield has undergone a "tremendous amount of restoration work" over the past 12 months to ensure it remains a focal point and source of pride for the rugby community. 

Dwan told AM on Tuesday he's not convinced by the story Hawke's Bay Rugby has said about how the shield broke.   

He told co-host Laura Tupou the shield was unlikely to break in half like it has due to the "weave of the grain and the oak".   

"It has happened on the old shield, we had a lot of problems because it was made out of two sections where this shield is actually a solid piece of oak, so it shouldn't really happen like that at all," he said.   

"So, until we actually see it and see if there's any more dents involved, which would have come from something else happening to it we can't really answer it in any other way. We just need to have a look at the shield first."  

Dwan told AM it would take a lot for the shield to break like it has done.   

"Running over it with a truck is pretty good. Dropped from a great height.  

"I mean, it is fairly heavy. It's probably three or four times heavier than the old shield.  

"It's probably three times as thick, which was made like that to prevent this sort of thing from happening," he told AM.   

Ranfurly Shield craftsman James Dwan.
Ranfurly Shield craftsman James Dwan. Photo credit: AM

Dwan and his company Tri-Peek have been involved with the shield's restoration and repairs over a long period of time and he said seeing what has happened to it makes him feel "pretty gutted".   

"I saw a glimpse of it in its present condition but I haven't really had a good look at any of the TV footage of it or anything yet but pretty gutted when I got the first phone call from a friend saying, 'You're not going to like what's happened to your shield.' 

"Then the phone calls came in and they were telling me what had happened to it and then of course it hit the news. It's not nice to know, there's not only myself involved, other people involved in getting it to where it is today or where it was a couple of days ago, so they're pretty upset about it as well."  

Dwan isn't the only person frustrated by the treatment of the shield by the Hawke's Bay players.  

Former All Black Bernie McCahill was part of the Auckland team that held the shield for eight years in the 80s and 90s and made his feelings perfectly clear.  

"I'm pretty disappointed," he told Newshub on Monday. "The aura that went with that Ranfurly Shield, it seems to have diminished which is sad.     

"I know they want to keep that community thing alive but if the respect has gone, well it's a sad day for rugby."    

Dwan said the old shied has been "abused in a big way" over the years and even revealed some stories about what teams have done to it.   

"We did a complete restoration on it about six years ago. It ended up in a spa pool, so all the chemicals got into the timber and that's really brittle now, it's pretty much rotten," he said.   

"People take the shields off and engrave their names underneath them. Someone took the whole centrepiece off one day and filled it up the builder's bog and it took me two weeks to get that out before I could re-plate the centre section.  

"So, it takes a hell of a lot of abuse."   

Dwan was coy on what teams are the worst for damaging the shield but did say "they know who they are".  

"I couldn't really state which teams were the worst. In some cases, I don't know the teams that actually did the damage," he said. "I shouldn't mention teams like Otago and things like that I suppose.  

"But they know who they are, let's just say that."  

Hawke's Bay Rugby said it takes "full responsibility" for the damage, which they will carry out and pay for "immediately". 

The shield is now back with New Zealand Rugby in Wellington, who'll work out what needs to be done to repair it - again - and the protocols around repairing it in the future.