Rugby's rule book is open to interpretation, which may
explain why in November eight players from the Southern
Hemisphere have been cited for foul play while not one from
the north has.
Discipline, or lack of, has become a prevailing theme
throughout the autumn tests and of all the statistics to
emerge in the last few weeks, this landslide victory to the
Southern Hemisphere is easily the most interesting for it
generates an environment for conspiracies to breed.
The All Blacks are at the epicentre of the storm. The actions
of Adam Thomson and Andrew Hore have only added weight to the
widely held perception of the All Blacks as thugs - an image
they may never shake.
But is the tail wagging the dog? When was the last time the
All Blacks had a player cited prior to Thomson? It was Keven
Mealamu, playing against England in London two years ago.
Before that? Daniel Carter playing against Wales in Cardiff
Rarely in the past five years have All Blacks been cited when
they have played in the Southern Hemisphere. Discipline has
only been an issue when they have come to Europe.
How to explain that? Are the Northern Hemisphere sides just a
bit soft - protected by a zealous judiciary who keep
forgetting it is not tiddlywinks? Or is rugby in the Southern
Hemisphere a little edgier, full of rough diamonds and blue
collars who feel eggs have to be broken to make omelettes? Or
more sinister yet, has the overwhelming dominance of Southern
Hemisphere nations in the last five years resulted in their
Northern Hemisphere opponents having become avid trawlers of
video footage in the hope they can find some dirt to throw?
It seems odd, a massive anomaly, that the Rugby Championship
and its Tri Nations predecessor only threw up occasional and
isolated incidents of foul play and now in the space of three
weeks, the judiciary has been crammed with supposed Southern
Thomson and Hore have been joined in the dock by, among
others, South Africa's Eben Etzebeth and Australia's Rob
Simmons and Sitaleki Timani. Tonga, Samoa and Argentina have
also had to attend hearings.
No one who follows Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship
would argue that the game in the Southern Hemisphere is
riddled with filth. There are incidents; there are unsavoury
moments and ill-timed and clumsy tackles and cleanouts and
the like: but consistent cheap shots ... no, not from any
international side, especially not now Bakkies Botha has
Strangely, the same couldn't be said of the game in Europe
where eye-gouging appears to be endemic; where earlier this
year England captain Dylan Hartley was cited for biting.
Just as odd, if not more so, than the excessive citings of
the Southern Hemisphere players is the non-citing of any from
the North - England especially have a poor track record in
recent times with Danny Grewcock, Hartley, Chris Ashton all
well known to the judiciary.
It is impossible to have rational debate on this issue, but
it is needed: the statistics of the last few weeks paint an
alarming picture - one that is hard to fit in with the
- By Gregor Paul in London