It’s something which has been brewing under the surface for some time, a question which many are afraid to ask and that is – are the All Blacks a dirty side?
Well New Zealand rugby journalist, Mark Reason, certainly believes so. Reason highlights his opinion in his latest column for Stuff and he cites many different examples to back-up his claim.
We all remember Ireland’s loss to New Zealand at the Aviva last November. Two weeks previously, Ireland had triumphed over Steve Hansen’s side in Chicago – their first win over New Zealand in 111 years – many expected a backlash and boy, did Ireland certainly receive that.
In a tight game, the All Blacks upped the physicality stakes to incredible lengths. This starved Ireland of possession and their supreme skillset ultimately won them the game. However, there were instances in that game which many Irish supporters were sour about, most notably, challenges on Robbie Henshaw and Simon Zebo from Sam Cane and Malakai Fekitoa, respectively.
We saw Sonny Bill Williams and Jerome Kaino in the Lions series, too. So do these examples back up Reason’s assertion or are they just particular instances which get blown out of proportion because it is the All Blacks we are talking about?
Reason begins his piece with the following:
Steve Hansen said after the All Blacks beat Ireland in Dublin last November: “Do you want me to tell you we’re a dirty side or something.”
It seems to me the answer to that question is now a colossal YES in capital letters. YES, it’s a swinging arm in the affirmative. YES, it’s a leading shoulder to the head. I apologise if that upsets you in the rugby shires, but the rest of New Zealand is fed up with the dreadful, headhunting example set by the All Blacks.
Reason also highlight instances in the All Blacks’ most recent match against Argentina in Buenos Aires:
So why aren’t we booing our own players? This has been going on since the match in Dublin last November. Sonny Bill and Jerome Kaino brought it into the Lions series. And then four or five of the side exported the violence to Buenos Aires.
Early in the second half Vaea Fifita hit Tomas Lezana with a shoulder. It was high and there were no arms involved. A yellow card was the minimum sanction. Astonishingly nothing was done.
Then Kieran Read hit Matias Orlando with a very dangerous tackle. It wasn’t an accident. Read made two or three other tackles in the match where the height was marginal. If you constantly drive at 70kph in a built up area there are going to be casualties.
Reason’s opinion is certainly going to divide opinion – on one side who have those of the view that the All Blacks get away with things on the pitch which no other team in world rugby does. But on the other side, you have those who believe people look to poke holes at the All Blacks, in an act born out of jealousy.