Belfast Telegraph

IRB could face bigger headache than Irish after booze-up Crown jewel: Richie McCaw

By Peter Bills

The Rugby World Cup is doing strange things to some people. Frano Botica, who is now 48, was a New Zealand rugby player who won seven caps for the All Blacks between 1986 and 1989, before going on to enjoy a successful seven-year spell in rugby league with the great Wigan club.

But one thing he did not do in his career was either play for Ireland, or threaten to do so through any Irish ancestors.

But that didn't stop a very strange phone call from one Irish supporter on this World Cup trip.

The caller said he was from Ireland and wanted to meet up with Fran to discuss his times with Ireland and his family background.

"But I never played for Ireland and I don't have an Irish heritage," Botica protested. "You must have," said the caller. "With a name like O'Botica, where else would you come from?"

A STRANGE tale reaches me from the depths of the South Island.

It is well known that, prior to their first match, the Irish team enjoyed a week of preparation in Queenstown. What is not widely-known is that one bar owner was a happy man indeed after a visit by the Irish boys. It's alleged some of them got through NZ$3,000 worth of drink in just part of an evening on his premises.

THEY'RE at it again. New Zealand paranoia at mucking up so many World Cup campaigns since their only successful one - back here, in their own country, in 1987 - knows no bounds.

No sooner had they flogged a deliberately weakened French team with some stunning running rugby that ought to have been enough to satisfy any critic than the locals were at it again.

"The All Blacks sailed past their toughest pool opponents in a dominant display of power and precision that can mean only one thing: we're doomed," wrote one New Zealand paper.

That's not paranoia, it's closer to sado-masochism.

NEW Zealand-born Aussie Quade Cooper has been getting some shocking stick from Kiwi crowds at this World Cup.

They were at it again in Wellington last weekend when the Wallabies beat the Americans 67-5.

Every time Cooper touched the ball, he was booed and his birth-right questioned by those closest to the pitch.

Former All Black wing Stu Wilson had an explanation for the ongoing loathing of the boy.

Referring to Cooper's assault on All Black skipper Richie McCaw in the recent Tri-Nations match, Wilson said: "Anyone that touches the crown jewel [McCaw] ... well, you start p*****g around like Quade Cooper has done and you have to accept the consequences in this country.

"If he doesn't know that and the Australian Rugby Union doesn't know that, they're dumber than I thought they were."

REFEREES at this World Cup have been instructed to keep play moving as much as possible.

Even when players are injured, or so it seems. But the farcical scenes during last Sunday's matches between Argentina and Scotland and the Fiji-Samoa game earlier in the day made the IRB's directive look not only stupid, but dangerous.

At one point in the battle between the Pacific islands countries, a medical cart drove onto the field to assist a concussed player while the game continued.

And in Wellington that night, Argentine No8 Juan Fernandez Lobbe was receiving attention, unable to walk, as the referee waved play on all around him.

An interesting question: might not the referee be legally liable if he allowed play to continue and an injured player received another blow from a player continuing with the game?

Might a charge of professional negligence not be raised by some lawyer somewhere? Be careful with your directives, IRB.


From Belfast Telegraph