Andrew Hore’s swinging straight arm hit on Bradley Davies at the weekend was an act of thuggery and plain for all to see. It was a moment of madness and one that has done the All Blacks no good whatsoever. Hore has presented the British media with a perfect opportunity to target the All Blacks ahead of the final match of the tour against England.
The IRB judiciary will deal with it in the appropriate manner and the issue will be quickly put to bed. It is hoped that the ban imposed is in the form of games rather than weeks. To get (say) a four week ban, with only one game left before the summer holidays would leave the IRB open to ridicule. A four match ban, ideally four Test matches, would be a more suitable format for whatever punishment is handed down but, in this litigious world, it’s a matter of time before the perpetrator of such an act faces criminal charges.
One wonders if a man who in 2005 was convicted for gratuitously killing a seal could be taken seriously by any judicial enquiry when it comes to defending his own good intentions. That was reprehensible behavior as was the hit on Davies.
Hore is known as one of the old school – a tough, uncompromising farmer who is never afraid of a few beers when the work on the field is done. However, the 74 cap All Black is not somebody with a record of foul play.
The reaction of Steve Hansen to the incident has been regrettable and the lack of condemnation from the NZRU equally hard to understand. Hansen has suggested that his team are not “thugs” and that he was “resigned” to the fact that Hore would probably be suspended. Hansen’s reaction has probably caused as much anger in the Northern Hemisphere as the incident itself. He could easily have made it clear that such behavior is unacceptable and that the player would face disciplinary action in addition to the likely sanction pending from the IRB.
It is interesting to contrast the response of Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer and captain Jean de Villiers to Dean Grayling’s appalling hit on Richie McCaw during the Rugby Championship game in Dunedin. Meyer apologized to McCaw after the game and remarked that “we are a team who prides ourselves on discipline and can’t afford these things in games”. De Villiers said that the Springboks would never condone dirty play and that Grayling would face internal action. Grayling was banned for two weeks but has not played for the Springboks since.
The NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew has talked regularly of the All Black brand and its value, particularly in the context of sponsorship deals signed with adidas and AIG. If All Blacks players were guilty on a regular basis of foul play, then the brand would potentially be at risk. That is not the case, but a comment from the CEO condemning foul play would be entirely appropriate.
Foul play can never be condoned but, from time to time, some players will suffer a rush of blood to the head and do something which they later regret. Repeat offenders need to be rehabilitated or weeded out of the game. Coaches must be consistent in how they respond to foul play. Steve Hansen is coaching one of the great All Black sides and they are playing magnificent rugby. To show himself worthy of the IRB coach of the year award (for which he must be odds on favourite), he should take a public stance on foul play – for the good of the game and its future.