The All Black steam roller continued its merry trip across the British landscape, this time clearing the usually challenging terrain of Millennium Stadium with uncharacteristic ease. The victory did not come without an rather major bump in the road however in the form of Andrew Hore’s wildly swinging forearm.
Hore’s arm can be seen coming across Bradley Davis’ neck and into his head.
As both a kiwi and middle aged, average rugby player, writing something that might be critical of my beloved All Blacks is not something that comes naturally. In fact even as I type my inner child is telling me to write off Hore’s swinging arm as something that happens in the game, a tragic accident in a sport build for men the size of tanks. It is tempting to say that the Welshman was at fault for running across Hore’s line to the ruck, that he must be responsible for whatever happens to him for making that decision. But I can’t. Perhaps living in Europe has softened my All Black eye and maybe even opened it a little to other perspectives but what Hore did was something that must be eradicated from the game. The cheapest of cheap shots against an opponent who was not even looking at him. If it is a fight between two men, facing off against each other in the heat of the moment, then fair play, let them go at it. Rugby is a tough game and occasionally tensions boil over and lead to fisticuffs. But hitting a guy from behind? Is that any different from sticking your fingers so deep into the eyes of a man trapped at the bottom of a ruck that you start feeling brain matter? I think not. Both are cheap, nasty and deserve the maximum penalty. They have no place on a rugby field and as someone who plays the game, I believe it must be eradicated. Rugby is tough and hazardous enough without this kind of behaviour.
Todd Bertuzzi assaults Steve Moore on the rink. The incidents have several strikingly similar characteristics
When I saw the incident I was reminded of something I saw in Canada about eight years ago. The Vancouver Canucks Ice Hockey team were playing the Colorado Avalanche and losing severely. Come the third period Vancouver star Todd Bertuzzi had had enough and was determined to draw opposition player Steve Moore into a fight and thus get booted from a game already lost. Moore was having none of it however, and skated away. But the rampant Bertuzzi was determined. He skated up behind Moore, grabbed his jersey, pulled him close and smacked him in the head from behind. Moore was instantly knocked out. Unaware of his victims situation Bertuzzi drove Moore’s head into the ice with his full body weight. The result was alarming. Amongst other injuries, Moore suffered fractures to his C3 and C4 vertebrae and severe concussion. He would never play hockey professionally again. Bertuzzi was banned for the rest of the season, his club was fined 250,000 CDN, and Bertuzzi’s salary of some 500,000 CDN was forfeit. Now obviously the injury sustained by Moore was on a much grander scale than those sustained by Wales lock forward Bradley Davis but the circumstance was very similar and it will only be a matter of time before one of these acts of brutality leaves someone crippled or worse. Players have to know that if they perform acts such as these the punishment could be their careers.
(Check out the links here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgqpVdu3KK0 for the Hore hit and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDIEKOm7z0s for a brief look at the Bertuzzi hit)
The aftermath, Davis lies face down on the pitch. After play stopped Hore didn’t even bother checking on his victim
Unfortunately the incident has not only changed the way Hore will be perceived forever but also cast a negative glow on the mythical All Black jersey. It is a symbol that an entire country unite behind. It goes much further than the uniform worn by sportsman; it is a symbol that forges the identity of a nation. An opportunity was there for the All Black higher powers to condemn Hore’s behaviour, to state that the precious jersey deserves more respect than to have someone smearing it with such barbaric actions but what we got was nothing. A couple of cracks about how tough rugby has and how things happen and then silence. It is a disgrace. Even the South Africans, often derided as dirty by many in New Zealand, showed more pride in what it meant to wear their jersey when their coach Heyneke Meyer spoke out against Dean Grayling’s appalling cheap shot on Richie McCaw in the Rugby Championship, earning both his team and himself enormous respect in the rugby community.
The classy moustache should not be enough to save Hore from a severe internal punishment for his cheap shot
No doubt the IRB will slam Hore with a tough sentence for his behaviour (on writing, a five game ban, three of which will be pre season matches with the Highlanders) but it has to go further than that. New Zealand rugby and the All Blacks in particular have to set a standard of not just behaviour off the field but also on it. Would they accept Hore if he had bitten someone? Eye gouged someone? I hope not and they shouldn’t here. He should be publicly reprimanded and his future All Black playing career should be jeopardised Only then can you ensure that the All Black jersey is not tainted by the kind of disgraceful behaviour exhibited in this instance.
A fitting end
Wales and Samoa: My most disappointing and most surprising teams of the Autumn Internationals.
The England v New Zealand finale should be a fitting end to another round of Autumn international series that has been dominated by the Southern Hemisphere sides. The north have secured a couple of notable victories, France’s crushing victory over Australia being the most obvious, but overall it has been a massively disappointing set of results for their teams. Perhaps only Ireland increased their reputation over the course of the series, winning two matches and only losing to South Africa by four points, playing with style and introducing some exciting new talent. Hopefully we will see them begin to turn their club teams successes into national team successes again.
The biggest disappointment would have to be Wales. A lot was expected of them after their fantastic World Cup but they have been awful. The loss to Samoa was particularly hard to swallow.
The surprise of the series would be Samoa. They are a team that are tough, physical and a real challenge but usually cannot match the professionalism and structure of the ‘big nations’. They posted wins over Wales and took France to the wire before going down by eight. One can only imagine how they would do if they did not lose so many players to the wealthier teams.
For the final matches I predict a fairly comfortable win for the All Blacks against England although I also believe this will be the toughest test of the tour for them. New Zealand to win 27 to 15.
Wales v Australia is a tough one. Wales have a lot of injuries and are pretty low on confidence after taking a battering in all their previous matches, although they will be out to salvage something in this final match. Australia haven’t been much better, being smashed by France, before bouncing back for a win against England and then going to the wire against unfancied Italy eventually winning by three after the Italians missed two very kickable penalties at the death. I am picking the Wallabies to take it out however in a tight one 14-17 mainly due to the return of talismanic David Pocock. The battle between him and Warburton, two of the best number sevens around, will be a mouthwatering contest. Expect a lot of turnovers.
I expect another All Black victory on Saturday to cap off a fantastic 2012 for the team and captain Ritchie McCaw in particular.