Belfast Telegraph

All Blacks coach faces drop kick as Kiwi loyalties split

By Peter Bills

The disingenuous members of the New Zealand population who never wanted Graham Henry re-appointed as All Blacks coach after their 2007 World Cup fiasco are down on their prayer mats each night.

They are hoping against hope that Australia will beat New Zealand and Wales defeat France in this weekend's semi-finals of the 2011 tournament.

Talk about wanting to rub some people's noses in it. That would produce a final between Australia, coached by New Zealander Robbie Deans, and Wales, coached by New Zealander Warren Gatland.

And it would all take place in front of 60,000 Kiwis mourning their own team's departure and another failed World Cup campaign. It would put a searing hot spotlight on those at the New Zealand Rugby Union who refused to consider coaches like Deans or Gatland back in 2007 and instead opted to re-appoint Henry and his assistants, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith.

But that's the nightmare scenario for the NZRU and the Kiwi people. Could it happen? Sure, it could. Everyone thought South Africa would beat Australia last weekend in the quarter-finals.

The Aussies are dangerous. Many fingers and toes are being crossed right now in the offices of the NZRU, in particular.

* IRB chief executive Mike Miller bit off more than he could chew when he hit back at a quip by New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew saying it was unlikely the All Blacks would play in the 2015 World Cup unless the tournament was restructured financially. Asked about this, Miller scoffed, saying that every team at the World Cup was replaceable. What an unfortunate choice of word, as it turned out. Former All Black Andy Haden said on New Zealand TV: "I assume he is referring to himself, too."

Then Australian Rugby Union CEO John O'Neill smacked down Miller, saying: "Threatening to boycott a World Cup is not our style. But, equally, the notion that any team is replaceable is nonsensical." Finally, to complete Miller's misery, a UK paper apparently ran a competition with a picture of Miller alongside a bottle of beer, inviting readers to write in if they could tell the difference.

The name of the beer? Miller Lite. Ouch!

* IT'S a comment sufficient to sober anyone up. Wellington Hospital emergency department nurse manager Lee Allsop had some pretty hair-raising things to say about a few of the drunks carted into the A-amp;E unit during World Cup quarter-final weekend in the capital. Many of those taken into the hospital, said Lee, had reached "a life-threatening level" of intoxication. She went on: "We see some terribly sad levels of intoxication. It breaks your heart to see these young people destroying their brain cells like that. It can kill; it is a form of poisoning. And the period of the Rugby World Cup was extremely busy for us."

* A PAL sent me some material about the England rugby squad before the World Cup. In light of their subsequent behaviour, shouldn't someone have taken notice of the following?

Ben Foden - arrest for drink-related taxi incident (later cleared); Chris Ashton - allegedly made crude comments to female hotel employee; Manu Tuilagi - punched Ashton in a Leicester-Northampton game last season and banned; Mike Tindall - three-year ban for a second drink-driving offence; 'Dwarfgate'; 'Blondegate'; Mark Cueto - banned for gouging; Delon Armitage - banned for refusing drug-test after abusing testers; Matt Stevens - self-confessed cocaine user; Dylan Hartley - gouging ban; Courtney Lawes - two-match ban at World Cup for cynical use of the knee; Nick Easter - allegedly punched pub doorman in April; Lewis Moody - called ex-England lock Martin Bayfield a "knob" at a public event.

Er, does the defence counsel have any questions?


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