Belfast Telegraph

All Blacks don't push physical limits too far, insists Henshaw

By Nick Purewal

Robbie Henshaw insists New Zealand do not overstep rugby's physical boundaries as the war of words around Conor Murray's Test match treatment rages on.

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen called a radio station to brand British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland "desperate" for demanding referees hand scrum-half Murray greater protection when he is kicking.

Gatland had hit out at the All Blacks targeting Murray's standing leg when box kicking in the Lions' 30-15 first Test defeat on Saturday, leaving Hansen so incensed he called into a radio show to respond.

Henshaw was knocked unconscious by Sam Cane's head-high shoulder charge in Ireland's 21-9 loss to New Zealand in Dublin on November 19 last year - but still remains convinced the All Blacks toe the disciplinary line.

"We know how physical they are as a team, and it's Test rugby," said Ireland centre Henshaw.

"For us also, physicality is one of the fundamental components in rugby. Everyone uses it in abundance.

"I don't think New Zealand take it too far. Sometimes in the moment people may get their entry wrong, stick out an arm and hit someone high.

"It's not intentional and people make mistakes.

"But obviously it's down to the officials what happens on the pitch and needs to be taken care of."

Hansen called New Zealand's Radio Sport to criticise Gatland for calling on the Test series officials to clamp down on the All Blacks' targeting of scrum-half Murray.

He said: "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."

Henshaw was put out of commission by flanker Cane's high shoulder hit when Ireland were downed by New Zealand in the second of two November Tests.

Cane was disciplined with simply a penalty - in a match refereed by Jaco Peyper, the man who officiated Saturday's first Test in Auckland.

But Leinster and Ireland midfielder Henshaw remains unfazed by New Zealand's bullish approach.

Asked if the Lions can add extra protection when half-back Murray lines up a box kick, Henshaw said: "Not necessarily, because if you came in to block you'd give a penalty away.

"All you can do is stand your ground.

"If the guy's clearly going for a block down and going for the ball, and he follows through and hits the player, that's not his fault.

"But if he's nowhere near the ball and he's hit our guy off the ball, it needs to be looked at.

"We'll probably look at it in detail, the referees might look at it in detail and see.

"But at the moment we're all okay about it. We know that teams are going after our key players to put them under pressure and to try to shut down our key players."

Gatland remains determined to see referees police similar attempts across the remainder of the Lions series.

"There were a couple of times from Conor Murray where there was a charge-down where someone dived at his legs," Gatland has said.

"And I thought that was a little bit dangerous.

"It's just making sure he's being looked after and protected and not harassed after he's box kicked."

Belfast Telegraph


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