So here’s the question I put to the 2005 twin spear tackling duo, Tana Umaga and Kevin Mealamu, and to the infamous 1978 diver, former World Rugby Cup ambassador, Andy Haden (he dived out of a line-out to win a penalty which beat Wales 13-12 and still has ‘no regrets’), – would you want your child to behave similarly? Would it make you proud of your children?
That 1978 Kiwi win over the Welsh was a pyrrhic victory – no real pride in that win. Diving out of a line-out attempting to get a penalty which won the game is as bad as Ronaldo’s diving antics when he was with Manchester United. Surely rugby should never degrade itself like this?
Spear tackling is far worse as it can break a player’s neck. And when two players do it on one player, off the ball, in the first minute of the first test match (2005 New Zealand), to the opposition’s star player (and captain), it is, plainly, a cowardly act . Would you want your children to do this? A friend told me that soon after the O’Driscoll spear tackle he heard a kid shout during a rugby match ‘get him, spear him’. Shouldn’t New Zealand RFU explicitly state that spear tackling is totally unacceptable. Shouldn’t they suspend players who do it. Why didn’t the IRB do something – immediately? Is it true that the citing officer was flown out of the country that evening?
Also shouldn’t referees issue more yellow and red cards for such life-threatening cheating? Do the Kiwis get the ‘rub of the green’ from refs (just like the major premiere League football teams seem to get the rub of the green on marginal decisions)?
Having said that I’ve played with Kiwis who were fantastic, hard, skilful, fast, real team players – a joy to play with. They never did any spear tackling or diving. They were just naturally brilliant players and winners. I’ve discovered that the great Graham Maorie’s All Blacks were fantastic sportsmen after the 1978 Munster defeat – in several ways (see Maori prayer for Dona Caniffe’s Dad; and at the after match dinner marching in on their knees singing ‘hi-ho’).
The Kiwis don’t need to cheat because they are absolute fantastic rugby players. I think, over time, they are the best in the world. Perhaps it’s that absolute desperateness to win that may stop them winning all World Cup games. Too much desperation to win? Who knows? We admire the mighty All Blacks’ rugby and hope they will play true and proud rugby on Saturday on this, their first visit, to the Mecca of rugby – the world’s oldest international rugby venue with the world’s newest international stadium (see 60 second video tour).
And yes their truly brilliant captain, McCaw, lives on the edge – but so did Ireland’s brilliant Nigel Carr and Fergus Slattery and many wing forwards before and after him. I don’t feel they bring the game into disrepute like Haden, the diver, or the spear tackling twins. There is a huge difference between McCaw and Carr’s approach versus the divers and spear tacklers. Perhaps someone could help me to articulate the difference between the two?
Note: Tagu Umali did stop in the middle of match against Wales and arguably save Welsh player Colin Charvis‘s life as he lay unconscious.
Note: Mealamu cited for head butting England’s Lewsey last week – deemed not guilty.