Rugby: Investigation fails to confirm white substance on Ranfurly Shield, damage confirmed as accidental

The damage suffered to the Ranfurly Shield came as a result of being accidentally dropped on an internal concrete floor, an NZ Rugby investigation has found.

Video shared on social media after Hawke's Bay claimed the iconic provincial prize with a win over Wellington last month showed the shield broken in half. Halfback Folau Fakatava is pictured holding it, although the union cleared him of causing the break.

One image showed a white powder on one half of the fractured shield, with the caption "They snorted drugs off the frickin Ranfurly."

NZ Rugby repossessed the shield to conduct its own investigation and assesss the damage.

Hawke's Bay players celebrate after winning the shield.
Hawke's Bay players celebrate after winning the shield. Photo credit: Photosport

On Wednesday, NZR announced its findings from a 10-day investigation that included interviewing players and testing the shield for illicit substances.

The outcome supported Hawke's Bay Rugby Union chief executive Jay Campbell's claims that the damage was a "genuine accident" and not the result of excessive celebrations.

NZR also concluded there was insufficient evidence from both testing and the investigation to determine what the white substance shown on the shield was.

"After seeing the social media images circulating, NZR immediately initiated a comprehensive, independent investigation to understand what occurred," said NZR general manager community rugby Steve Lancaster.

"Whilst NZR is satisfied that the damage was caused by a genuine accident, our expectation is that Hawke's Bay Rugby Union will evaluate the circumstances that led to the players putting the shield in a vulnerable position.

"We remain disappointed in the situation and are now focused on repairing the shield and reviewing its protocols. The Ranfurly Shield is a taonga of rugby in New Zealand and our intention is that it can continue to be enjoyed by the community that holds it."

Once repaired, the Ranfurly Shield will be appropriately handed back to Hawke's Bay as the current holders.

"Hawke's Bay Rugby Union accepts the findings of NZR's independent investigation. Whilst this was a genuine accident, no one is more disappointed than the union and playing group," Campbell responded.

"We continue to take full responsibility for the damage and remain committed to supporting the process of repair.

"Our focus since has been on regaining the trust and support of our community by putting in performances that they can be proud of, and that continues to be the focus this weekend in the NPC final."

The trophy has suffered more than its share of wear and tear over the years, and was restored in 1994 and again this year, when it was blessed by NZ Rugby Māori cultural advisor Luke Crawford and recognised as 'taonga' (prized).