The pressure has been ramped on the IRB to refine and
improve their judicial process ahead of the next World Cup with
fears that the tournament could be ruined if the Adam Thomson
case is anything to go by.
The New Zealand Rugby Union are comfortable they got an
outcome that was acceptable in the ongoing saga that brewed
following Thomson's careless footwork against Scotland. They
were less than pleased with the time it took to get that
Thomson's indiscretion - he scraped his boot on the head of
his opposite, Alasdair Strokosch, on November 11 at
Murrayfield - saw the wheels grind exceedingly slowly.
The citing and final appeal process didn't wind up until
Friday November 23.
The outcome is basically that the All Black flanker will be
available for selection to play England next week. The IRB
appealed the findings of the independent judicial inquiry
that found Thomson guilty of applying a boot to Strokosch's
head. Thomson was originally handed a two-week suspension
that was reduced to one for his previous clean record and
lack of intent.
The IRB claimed the sentence was too lenient but lost the
appeal, with the committee finding the initial judgement of a
two-week suspension to be in line with the recommendations
laid down by the governing body.
The committee agreed the act had been entry level (in other
words at the lesser end of the severity scale) but they
upheld the IRB's contention that the initial sentence should
not have been cut in half, therefore meaning Thomson's ban
was extended to two weeks.
The All Blacks had withdrawn him for selection for both the
tests against Italy and Wales meaning the 30-year-old is
able, if required, to play against England.
The IRB Council will meet tomorrow for their usual November
series of meetings and the judicial process will be on the
agenda. Sweeping changes are not on the cards. The major
unions are in favour of a natural justice system that allows
for discretion and debate around individual cases.
There is limited appetite for a blanket system where there
are parameters set for various indiscretions and there is no
process available for each case to be taken on its merits.
The NZRU feels the Thomson case highlighted the need for the
preservation of natural justice. Thomson's foul play was
unusual. He doesn't deny that he put his boot on Strokosch's
head but he is adamant there was no intent.
The NZRU also believe - despite the fact the IRB appealed the
decision and had it upheld - that it was right for them to
have at least had the opportunity to plead Thomson's case and
point to his previous clean record as justification for the
initial sentence being cut in half.
Their only problem (and it is believed that most of the major
countries endorse this view) is the whole saga took too long
"We need to sit back as a sport and work out how we can speed
the process up," said New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive
Steve Tew. "Six days to wait for a written decision before
the IRB could even decide whether the appeal was warranted or
not was too long."
The All Blacks were able to be relatively relaxed about the
Thomson saga because he's not a first-choice All Black and
they had plenty of cover for the loose forward. But Tew fears
that the angst would have been considerable had the offender
been a frontline All Black like Richie McCaw or Kieran Read.
What then? Would the All Blacks have been happy to have been
left in limbo for the better part of two weeks? Would it have
been feasible or easy for them to prepare for a test had they
not known whether their captain was going to be available or
What if the opposition hadn't been Italy and Wales - as it
was in the case of Thomson - but South Africa and Australia?
Or if the incident had taken place in the World Cup.
"I have expressed that view to people at the IRB," said Tew.
There is expected to be some robust discussion around the IRB
table this week.
- Gregor Paul, Herald on Sunday