The ‘All Black way’: a brutal, physical and intense way to play rugby. Regularly on the brink of what is considered ‘legal’; often intelligently disguised within the laws of the game to gain an advantage.
Standout times where this ‘physicality’ has overstepped the mark are the obvious cases such as Tana Umaga’s spear-tackle on Brian O’Driscoll, and the ferocious win for the Kiwis over Ireland last November which had Irish head coach, Michael Kearney, fuming:
“I don’t think we’re whinging at all. I think the facts speak for themselves. He [the citing officer] actually picked out 12 different incidents, of which 11 of them involved New Zealand, and one involved Ireland, which we’ve subsequently been cleared of.
“The evidence is very clear that Robbie [Henshaw] took a shoulder to the jaw, which knocked him unconcious,”
Such cases have furthered the All Blacks reputation of being a ‘dirty side’; one which current Lions boss, Warren Gatland, wants to bring to the medias attention, so that the referee has a sharp eye when looking out for any foul play.
Speaking after the Northern Hemisphere side’s 30-15 loss to the All Blacks, Gatland, believed that New Zealand were constantly illegally targeting Conor Murray:
“There were a couple of times from Conor Murray where there was a charge down where someone dived at his legs.
I thought that was a little bit dangerous. And after he has kicked, he has been pushed a few times and pushed to the ground.
It’s just making sure he’s being looked after and protected and not harassed after he’s box kicked. So we’ll probably just get some clarity from the referee later in the week.”
The remarks of such tactics have angered All Blacks boss, Steve Hansen, who has gone out of his way to defend his side; speaking to a New Zealand radio station, Hansen, has hit back at his fellow Kiwi:
“It’s predictable comments from Gatland, isn’t it? Two weeks ago it was we cheated in the scrums, last week it was blocking and now he’s saying this.
It’s really disappointing to hear it, because what he’s implying is that we’re going out there to intentionally injure somebody and that’s not the case. I guess he might be a bit desperate.”
The mind games continue in New Zealand, and it would appear Hansen is trying to defend a growing reputation that the All Blacks can cheat their way to a create a higher intensity.
Regardless, the class of New Zealand – without the ability to play within the written rules – was evident to see in Auckland, and the mind games would suggest Gatland is trying to fend any pressure off his team by raising the attention of this supposed All Black nature.
It probably won’t matter a great deal on the pitch – judging by last Saturday – and Hansen, along with the All Blacks media, are probably thriving at the Kiwi-born’s attempt to win the media battle over the rugby battle itself.