The All Blacks really missed a trick during the Northern Hemisphere tour. The aftermath from the Andrew Hore dominated the build-up to the test against England and team management might an art form of sitting on their hands.
First of all, the assault was a shocker. It was a strike to the head from behind, and was in the first minute of the match. And it was against Wales; a side who have not beaten the All Blacks since 1953.
The evidence was there for all to see, and the Welsh player was in hospital. The obvious thing to do was to issue an apology; but none were forthcoming. Even Springbok management, hardly known for diplomacy, were immediate in their condemnation and contrition after the Greyling cheap shot on McCaw earlier in the year.
There was none of that from Hansen. Staunch silence. Even when the judiciary hearing rolled around Ian Foster was sent along, and all we got were some non-committal statements mixed with a really strange comment about how NZ rugby always respects the findings of the IRB. As if that culd ever be in doubt?
During this period, the notion that the All Blacks are actually quite a dirty outfit was allowed to grow in certain aspects of the UK rugby community. This was a theory enabled by the NZ rugby media who do seem to take a certain perverse delight in hearing bad things being uttered about Brand All Black; especially when it’s coming from those dastardly UK scribes.
If the protection of the All Black brand is so important why did they just not send Hore home? It could have sent the signal to players that cheap shots from behind are not acceptable for a range of reasons.
This includes the more cynical reality that if the referee / touch judges had been half awake New Zealand would have played 79 minutes of the test with 14 players. Now that would have been interesting.
And then there was the PR war; which seems increasingly important in the eyes of the rugby media. Far easier to dismiss the act as a random and atypical act of thuggery when you send someone packing. OK; the only other time a player was sent home from Wales things didn’t go so well, but this is not 1972.
What was there to gain by retaining Hore in the touring party anyway? He was never going to be eligible for the England match as it was, and surely keeping a distraction holed up in a five star London hotel for a week longer than needed is the ultimate in financial profligacy.
And this from an organisation who refuses to send the All Blacks to the Pacific Islands because, well, it costs a bit much.
As events proved, his presence in London hardly helped with the build-up.
And then the IRB joined in on the fumbling nature of it all by reminding that when it comes to handing down suspensions they are still sitting in the 1960s. Such an enigma the IRB; at the leading edge of modern sporting ruthlessness when it comes to spotting advertising on mouthguards yet they hand down a high profile disciplinary sentence in such a way that the majority of it will be served sitting out of Highlanders pre-season games. Indiscretions resulting from test matches should be served in test matches. Just so simple.
Anyway, how much pre Super Rugby friendly beer company promotional matches did Andrew Hore play this year anyway?
For the hard copy version of this, get a copy of this week’s NZ Truth. Page 37