France full­back had to go for tak­ing Bar­rett in the air

The spot­light was on the All Blacks but it was France who felt the ref­eree’s wrath

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

RBar­rett’s hip, tip­ping Bar­rett to the ground.

The sick­en­ing im­pact of Bar­rett’s head on the ground left Gard­ner, as he said him­self, ‘‘with no al­ter­na­tive’’ but to send Fall off.

Say what­ever you like about in­tent, the fact is that if Ofa Tu’un­gafasi’s shoul­der hit­ting poor Remy Grosso’s head last week was, as World Rugby (still as in­com­pe­tent as when they were called the IRB) said, close to the line for a red, but not over it, Fall’s fail­ing was tech­ni­cal, but tech­ni­cal in an area where necks can be bro­ken. He had to go. Last week af­ter the ridicu­lous yel­low card for Paul Gabril­lagues the French ba­si­cally chucked the towel in.

Does that au­to­mat­i­cally mean the game is over when a card is flashed? No, and for a long time France showed that on Sat­ur­day night in Welling­ton.

But does play­ing 15 against 14 for al­most 70 min­utes have huge po­ten­tial to rob fans, pay­ing a lazy $100 or more for a ticket, of a close con­test? Of course.

It might be hard to con­vince hide-bound of­fi­cials at world level, but how bet­ter might it be to have mas­sive fines for a red card, while al­low­ing a re­place­ment for the of­fender?

As for the All Blacks, the se­rial crit­ics will be hon­ing in on two ar­eas.

One was that the French show­ing was vastly aided by very un­char­ac­ter­is­tic All Black mis­takes, both tac­ti­cal and tech­ni­cal. Tac­ti­cally there were at­tacks that went left, when the over­lap was on the right. Tech­ni­cally ball re­ten­tion was sloppy. As a frus­trated Ian Fos­ter said at half­time of the lack of com­po­sure, ‘‘You would have thought we’d got the red card.’’

The other is that 10 min­utes into the sec­ond half ref­eree Gard­ner was say­ing to All Blacks cap­tain Sam White­lock that one more penalty for in­fring­ing on de­fence and he’d take ‘‘fur­ther ac­tion’’, and 12 min­utes later TJ Per­e­nara was in the bin.

Which will nat­u­rally add power to the arm of those who see the All Blacks as long term, cal­cu­lat­ing cheats, a claim that led to the un­usual sit­u­a­tion dur­ing the week of coach Steve Hansen say­ing, ‘‘We’ve been called cheats for 100 years.’’

Hansen is wrong. It’s ac­tu­ally 113 years.

When the 1905 All Blacks went to Bri­tain it was claimed they were be­ing sneaks be­cause at the time New Zealan­ders played 45 min­utes each way at home. In Bri­tain they played 35 min­utes per half, so how could the Bri­tish play­ers, moaned their me­dia, be as fit?

Af­ter that came the Bri­tish del­uge. In 1930 the Lions man­ager called the All Black wing for­ward, who put the ball into a seven-man scrum, a cheat. Next year they changed the law and banned the po­si­tion. In ‘59 the All Blacks wore shoul­der pads. The Lions called them cheats. In ‘78 Frank Oliver and Andy Haden fell out of a li­ne­out against Wales. OK, we ac­tu­ally did cheat that time.

Sid Go­ing was called a cheat for how he fed the scrum in the 70s. ‘‘You put the blinky thing in then,’’ the Mor­mon non-swearer told one English ref­eree.

Richie Mc­Caw was called a GETTY IM­AGES cheat, and he cast a spell over ref­er­ees. Now our crowds wear­ing black are said to do the same thing.

The real­ity with tack­ling, the most con­tentious real is­sue in the game, is that in mod­ern rugby all over the world, cer­tainly not just in New Zealand, coaches have trained tack­lers to hit in the chest area, rather than around the legs.

Why? Be­cause the abil­ity to off-load in a tackle, once a rare skill, is now com­mon­place, as pro­fes­sional play­ers be­come more and more ex­pert. Low tack­les don’t stop the off-load.

The prob­lem, and it is a prob­lem, is with how the game has de­vel­oped, not with one team us­ing dark arts while oth­ers are in­no­cents.

The All Blacks some­times get their tack­les wrong. It can lead to bru­tal con­se­quences. But the mis­takes are also made by ev­ery other side in the in­ter­na­tional game. To sug­gest oth­er­wise is to be at best disin­gen­u­ous. At worst, it’s in­dulging in sheer mal­ice, pos­si­bly driven by jeal­ousy.

Ben­jamin Fall leaves the field af­ter be­ing sent off.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.