Hansen hits back: "we've been called cheats for 100 years"

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said he could understand if the French felt a little miffed by some...
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said he could understand if the French felt a little miffed by some of the refereeing decisions in last night's test. Photo: Getty Images
Another test, another range of refereeing inconsistencies leading to accusations of double standards and dirty play – life is back to normal for the All Blacks.

Their 52-11 victory against France contained a 30-minute blast of particularly good rugby and yet the post-game focus has fallen squarely on two tackles.

Perhaps understandably given that the French, as even the All Blacks admit, were unfairly shown a yellow card for a non-high tackle while such a punishment wasn't reciprocated when the home side appeared to do the same thing.

And so, given the different fates of each team, the All Blacks once again face accusations they are a protected species in that they are able to work favourable outcomes for employing illegal tactics.

This seemed to be the view from the French camp after the game, making them the latest in a long line of opponents over the last few years to have aired a grievance about the All Blacks.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has heard it all before and tends to accept that as the world's number one side, they can't escape the scrutiny, valid or not.

"We have been called cheats for 100 years haven't we? If you keep winning, people will find reasons I suppose," he said.

"Richie McCaw was the biggest cheat ever. But he didn't cheat he just played to the letter of the law. When Auckland were playing Canterbury they were the biggest cheats then Canterbury got on top and they were the biggest cheats … you have just got to roll with that sort of stuff."

Hansen is more concerned that rugby authorities are continuing to take an inflexible approach to a complex issue that is never quite as black and white as those running the game want it to be.

World Rugby's crusade to eliminate high tackles and associated head knocks has global support.

But not all high tackles are the same – and the situation at Eden Park was compounded by the refusal of referee Luke Pearce to use the TMO to support his decision-making.

French lock Paul Gabrillagues was yellow carded despite the fact the initial contact on Ryan Crotty wasn't high. In real time the tackle looked bad, but on the replay, it was borderline whether it was even a penalty.

The second tackle under scrutiny was the double team hit by Sam Cane and Ofa Tu'ungafasi on Remy Grosso which resulted in the French wing fracturing his skull in two places.

Questions have inevitably arisen as to how Gabrillagues could be carded for his tackle while neither Cane nor Tu'ungafasi were punished in the same way. And neither will be as neither has been cited and won't be.

"I can understand that they will be a little miffed when their guy got yellow carded. But as I said last night, I don't think their guy should have been yellow carded," Hansen said.

"Nor do I think that Ofa should have been yellow carded either. Our game is fluid and there is movement in it and when you get two guys coming into make a tackle on one, things can change late and I think that is what happened.

"Sam made the tackle and Ofa ended up hitting him [Grotto] in the face with his shoulder accidentally. There was no intention to hurt him.

"Unfortunately it is one of those things. All three of them got head knocks. When the game is fluid like it is and players change their angle late, and you have committed, especially if you are a big guy it is difficult to get out of the way."

Perhaps the sense of contradictory refereeing wouldn't have arisen had the inexperienced Pearce not been so determined to make his decision based on what he saw in real time.

When Gabrillagues initially made contact, it resulted in Crotty's head being thrown back and the All Blacks midfielder went down in a dramatic heap.

Most observers, on that evidence, were sure they had seen an atrocity but the replay killed that notion – but Pearce had already made his decision before he checked.

"At the moment it is because they are trying to be strict," Hansen said on why decisions appear confused and inconsistent. "And you could see that from the reaction of Luke [referee Pearce] last night.

"He saw it as a bad head high from the French player but when you saw it on the replay, what he felt he saw wasn't as bad.

"Sometimes you just have to take a bit of time and look at the video. If you are going to send someone off I think you have to take your time and check it."

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