Kiwis coming to play or to ……?

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.

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12 Responses to Kiwis coming to play or to ……?

  1. Con November 16, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    hi
    i think the reason the ab’s haven’t won a world cup since 87 is just like you said – desperateness to win it.

    plus they are stubborn and very very proud – changing to suit games or the way play is going isn’t the kiwi way.

    as regards cheating, they all will hurt you if they think they can get away with it. and you’re right – they don’t need to do it.

    • prsmith November 25, 2010 at 9:35 am #

      I agree Conan – they are so good that they can win – without the ‘serious cheating’. As you can see I’m still trying to define the difference between the two types of cheating.

  2. martina November 20, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    I love watching the All-Blacks play – they force teams to up their game. They are all about the win but so is every team that want better. The All-Blacks play a 80 minute game – how many of the northern hemisphere team can say the same – the Irish today only played a 65 minute game and lost by 20 points. A ref also needs to be able to move at the pace of the All Blacks- they move the ball from side to side and don’t need to slow down the ball to gather their team. On any given day, any team can beat the great one but today Ireland was not that team. However, there is always hope and there were moments of pure magic from the Irish

    • prsmith November 25, 2010 at 9:33 am #

      Martina – fair comment. The ABs were awesome – their speed and change of speed can only be appreciated when sitting in the stadium watching them move the ball around. However, I saw enough there to reassure me that we could beat the ABs (as can Munster) and the first time it might happen could be in a World Cup in New Zealand. The dream lives on!

  3. Philip Hayton December 26, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    As a Kiwi, I think hard tackling is good for rugby and some times doesn’t come off so well for the ball carrier. Tackles like the Tana Umanga are unfortunate but make the game exciting to watch and play and if the RFU get more strict then we won’t see so many big hits.

  4. Simon Redman December 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    I don’t believe many international sportsman intentionally set out to hurt another and that events like the spear tackle on BOD are thankfully very rare. Really good players don’t need to cheat to win, and so most of the time they don’t cheat. Even All Blacks. So there……………

  5. Paul Smith November 16, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    Very well said Simon. I agree that nice guys do not necessarily come second. Here’s 4 stunning stories proving Nice Guys Actually Win. http://tinyurl.com/lqwav7r . Also here’s Conor O’Sea Harlequins & former Irish international) also proving Nice Guys Win http://tinyurl.com/plankg7

  6. prpgsmith July 24, 2017 at 8:22 am #

    Things have moved on & the ABs seem more grounded today under new management. Perhaps less pressure, more enjoyment & a desire to leave the shirt better after each time you play – has helped to win back-to-back World Cups + highest success ratings of any sport anywhere in the world – here’s Gerry McGovern’s intriguing piece: The New Zealand All Blacks are the ultimate committee http://tinyurl.com/y9qzfthd
    Congrats to both ABs & Lions on a fantastic 2017 series – wonderful stuff!

  7. Peter Dennis October 7, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

    I think the ABs play a dirty game. Two prime examples are the ‘tackle’ that removed Robbie Henshaw from the game in Chicago, and Sonny Bill’s shoulder charge on Anthony Watson on the Lions tour. These incidents continue, and it’s just written off as ‘physicality’.

  8. prpgsmith October 9, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

    Mind you, Peter, perhaps Sonny Bill’s ‘head hit’ in the 2nd Lions Test cost the ABs the series when he was sent off? So perhaps the ABs don’t always get away with it more than other teams?

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