Umaga fails to tackle ‘old news’

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

NEW ZEALAND Rugby and Tana Umaga, coach of the Blues, have done them­selves no credit with Umaga’s han­dling of ques­tions from Bri­tish re­porters about the in­ci­dent that marred the last Lions tour.

At the press con­fer­ence to an­nounce his team that played the Lions last night, Umaga knew he would be asked about the tackle in 2005 that put that year’s Lions cap­tain and best game-breaker Brian O’Driscoll out of the tour just min­utes af­ter the start of the first test.

“That was 12 years ago,” Umaga replied. “If peo­ple can’t put it be­hind them I sup­pose they never will.

“It is not about that time now. It’s about this group now and against the Lions and hope­fully the mem­o­ries they make that are pos­i­tive ones, and we just move on from that.”

At the time our edi­to­rial called it a reck­less and dan­ger­ous act un­be­com­ing the All Black cap­tain. “It may even have been ma­li­cious,” we said, adding, “al­though that is un­likely, we do not know and pos­si­bly never will.”

As the years have passed, and New Zealand rugby fol­low­ers have re­flected on it, more of them have felt un­com­fort­able about what hap­pened. O’Driscoll was care­ful to say only that he thought it would have been “com­mon cour­tesy” for the All Black cap­tain to show an in­ter­est in his con­di­tion as he was be­ing stretchered off.

It was 12 years ago and Umaga is not the only New Zealan­der who wishes it was be­hind us. Hope­fully, he wishes it had never hap­pened but in that case, why could he not say so? Why, when he has said he knew the in­ci­dent would be raised at Monday’s press con­fer­ence, did he not come pre­pared to give a gra­cious ex­pres­sion of re­gret? New Zealand Rugby ought to have urged him to do so.

Un­til some­body on our side says the right thing, we are in no po­si­tion to tell the Bri­tish rugby press or pub­lic to put it be­hind them. We may hope their lin­ger­ing dis­gust does not in­trude on this tour but we are in no po­si­tion to say it should not. – New Zealand Her­ald

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