Adam Hathaway, rugby correspondent of The People, thinks the authorities need to have another look at Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup match and laments the demise of his Sunday night rugby fix.
People have been bleating that there is one set of laws for the All Blacks and one for the rest of us and some of the time they are barking up the wrong tree. The Kiwis are just better than the rest of the world at the moment – so get over it.
Richie McCaw spent his career offside, they have not had a player sent off since Colin Meads got his marching orders in 1967 and they are trying to get the world to fit the season around their one. These have been going around the block for donkeys’ years and most of them would not make a blind bit of difference to the results of Test matches.
And, as Stephen Jones pointed out in the Sunday Times, the All Blacks have done the British & Irish Lions no favours by refusing to put next year’s tour down under back a week or two. The Lions, Premiership Rugby, Pro12 and every other Uncle Tom Cobley involved in Home Nations rugby have not either, and should hang their heads in shame, but the Kiwis have played their part in what will be an organised slaughter.
But after last weekend’s events in Wellington the bleaters might just have got a point. The world champions beat Australia, and retained the Bledisloe Cup for the umpteenth time on the spin, with a 29-9 win to tack onto their 42-8 win in Sydney seven days earlier.
You can chuck all of the complaints of the Wallaby coach Michael Cheika on the back burner. His team might have got the messy end of the stick from referee Romain Poite, who had a bit of a nightmare, but the Aussies would have lost anyway.
You can almost ignore the fact that the All Blacks had a meeting with Poite on the eve of the game and did not invite the Aussies – as you have to. If they don’t want to come then that is their look out, but teams who meet officials before matches have to ask the opposition if they want to sit in on the chinwag and have a cuppa.
Apparently that did not happen and the Wallabies are complaining to World Rugby and the Kiwis are saying they only met assistant ref Jaco Peyper. Don’t hold your breath on that one.
What you cannot chuck on the back burner is the incident when the All Blacks prop Owen Franks appeared to, in the pompous words of rugby officialdom, ‘make contact with the eye area’ of Wallaby lock Kane Douglas. But SANZAR have decided it is not worth another butcher’s.
That is gouging to you and me and in the same bracket, in rugby, as spitting or testicle twisting. In the rugby jungle it is okay to give someone a right-hander as long as you are not blind-siding them as the Argentinean hooker Federico Mendez famously did to Paul Ackford at Twickenham in 1990.
That YouTube clip that has been played endlessly in press boxes, and provided plenty of belly laughs, since Ackford switched from playing the game to writing about it. Mendez got sent off and Ackford has dined out on the incident ever since.
The pair laugh about that one now, all fun and games, but gouging, spitting and scrotum squeezing are no-go areas.
Franks got nothing at the time on Saturday, no yellow, no red and no ticking off but he should have been cited.
In fairness to Poite there is a bit going on in a rugby Test match, but a citing does not mean a bloke is guilty or that a referee needs to go to Specsavers – it is just a chance for the disciplinary bods to have another look at something. If they find nothing then he is free to play again as soon as he likes just like Charlie Matthews was a couple of seasons ago after a similar grappling match in a Harlequins Champions Cup game against Leinster.
After the game in Wellington it was the usual verbal tennis via the press conferences with the Aussies serving first.
Cheika said: “We saw it at the time but I’m sure the match review will pick it up. They couldn’t miss it – it was pretty in the open. It’d be pretty hard for the match review to miss.”
Hansen hit that one back over the net thus: “I’ve seen the footage and I agree with the independent person who said there’s nothing to answer for. You’ve got to be really, really careful until you see all the views, and social media I think alerted everyone to it.
“Whoever was running it has obviously seen all the angles and believes there’s nothing to answer for. I think at times people might have been a little over-keen, but it was all push and shove. There’s nothing really in it really. I saw his (Cheika’s) comments. It’s been dealt with – end of story.”
Well it shouldn’t be and the match review obviously did miss it. Take a look at the clip yourselves and then try and argue that it should not at least be viewed again, in the cold light of day, by a disciplinary panel.
And while you are at it see if you can dig out a recording of the Chris Ashton incident in Saracens’ Champions Cup match against Ulster in January. Ashton had just been picked in England’s extended squad, by Eddie Jones, after not playing a Test since 2014 and had half a chance of making the Six Nations.
He had a bit of a bundle with Luke Marshall but none of us there spotted the alleged ‘contact with the eye area’. None of the coaches mentioned it in the post-game press conference but some busybody did and it went to a review. Fair enough – what wasn’t fair was that Ashton got 10 weeks and his chances of an international recall turned to the proverbial.
Everyone watching the game on Saturday saw that at the very least there is a case to be answered – even Kiwi fans on internet forums are saying it. This All Black team is too good to be tarnished by accusations that they get any favours from the rugby hierarchy. It is like saying the Aussie cricket team of the Shane Warne and Steve Waugh era got more than their fair share of LBW decisions. They were the best in the business.
Any accusations that the Kiwis get the rub of the green from the authorities are just dismissed as sour grapes – they don’t need the rub of the green anyway. But this one just does not feel right.
About five minutes ago we were at Twickenham watching Saracens lift the Premiership trophy and all of a sudden the new season is upon us – and all the familiar faces were at the launch of the 2016-17 campaign at Twickenham last Thursday.
This weekend we get the first full round of fixtures culminating in what should be a cracker at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday when Wasps host Exeter.
But the journey back from Coventry on Sunday night will not be the same without Brian Moore dissecting the weekend’s action, giving us his forthright opinions on crooked feeds and trying to get Nigel Owens to comment on controversial refereeing decisions. I bet Moore would have something to say about the Franks incident as well.
This column has ranted about Moore’s Full Contact programme on TalkSport before – particularly when the station chopped it from the schedule on the weekend Saracens won the Champions Cup in May. That was ludicrous and what comes next is even more ludicrous.
The programme has been chopped forever and rugby had better watch out. It was an oasis of mild sanity on the airwaves which seem more and more obsessed with whether a 35-year-old centre back from Chelsea will play football again for England, than they are with a national union side that has won 10 on the spin. A couple of hours a week is not too much to ask is it?
Obviously Dave from Cheshunt ranting about Arsene Wenger not signing a centre forward gets more listeners than a former England and Lions’ hooker talking sense about rugby union with a variety of well-informed guests.
There is a Premiership and Pro12 preview programme on 5 Live on Tuesday at 7.30pm but there will not be much more plugging of the tournaments.
Let’s hope Moore gets another gig somewhere, a podcast would be worth a listen, but rugby should be worried about the lack of airtime it gets. It is only going to get worse.