Backlash to the Black clash:
Unacceptable. A shrug of the shoulders, a ‘‘gee shucks’’ and flippant suggestion there are bigger things in the world to worry about does not cut the mustard from a New Zealand Rugby organisation that is fast making an art form out of its ineptitude.
In many ways we should not be surprised by the scheduling snafu that has arisen on Saturday, pitting the All Blacks’ test against Japan effectively head to head against the Black Ferns’ World Cup quarterfinal against Wales in Whanga¯ rei. The former kicks off at 6.50pm (NZ time) and the latter at 7.30pm.
Given that the Ferns’ quarterfinal timeslot was known as far back as May last year and the Japan test was only added to the All Blacks’ tour schedule much later, it is a clash that clearly could have been avoided with a modicum of foresight, communication and planning.
Unfortunately this is NZ
Rugby we are talking about. Foresight, communication and planning are not exactly its forte.
Is the clash regrettable? Of course it is. New Zealand rugby fans deserve the opportunity to watch both of their flagship teams live, the women’s World Cup deserves a clear runway for its key quarterfinal involving the home side and Black Ferns players deserve people talking about them heading into an important knockout match, and not the inadequacies of their parent organisation.
Will life go on? Sure. People will have a choice over which match they watch live, there are options for delayed screening of both and there is a thing called multi-screening for those not wanting to miss a thing as it happens. Some will watch neither.
But that’s not the point.
The point is this was a situation easily avoided if NZ Rugby had thought about the World Cup it was hosting when it added the clash against Japan to its existing three-match November tour to Wales, Scotland and England. The fact that it didn’t is both shocking optics and an inexcusable failing.
As it does in these matters, NZ Rugby has issued a mea culpa. Of sorts.
First on Wednesday it put out a statement admitting it did not ‘‘take into account’’ the World
Cup scheduling and there ‘‘was never an intent to overshadow the RWC in any way’’.
Later, spokesman Chris Lendrum explained an ‘‘oversight with bigger consequences’’ when he said: ‘‘We were aware of it as an organisation, but the right people weren’t aware of it.’’ He added: ‘‘It’s not the end of the world. We’re lucky to have these problems in New Zealand.’’
What is this? The Benny Hill Show? No one at NZ Rugby thought of raising the very global tournament it was hosting as a factor in timing of an add-on test purely there to make money, and solidify a relationship with Japan Rugby that is all about, you guessed it, making more money?
Nobody is perfect. People make mistakes. Key things get overlooked. But NZ Rugby, a multimillion-dollar organisation that pays a lot of people significant money to get the detail right, do make a lot of boo-boos.
This is just the latest in a long line of questionable actions in 2022 that leave people entitled to raise questions about those running our national game in New Zealand.
This year alone we’ve had the long-running Silver Lake private investor saga that took two years to get over the line.
There has been a Black Ferns review that highlighted problem areas in that environment, and led to a change in head coach; there has been an unprecedented mid-cycle coaching shakeup in the All Blacks which saw two assistants sacked, just months after they had been reappointed; there was the ill-considered tweet on International Women’s Day; and there has been a continuation of the relationship problems with