Paranoid Kiwis must condemn foul play
Do we love the All Blacks as we should, swooning at the splendour of their game, or do we recoil at the untouchable air that surrounds them, their aura of supremacy? Are they a bit up themselves?
Certainly there has been a flip side on this trip, beastliness as well as beauty. First it was flanker Adam Thomson, kicking a Scot in the head. Then it was hooker Andrew Hore, flattening Wales lock Bradley Davies with the sort of cheap-shot forearm smash that would have put him behind bars if it had been done down a Cardiff alleyway late at night rather than at the Millennium Stadium under bright lights.
You might imagine that after these two incidents, the All Blacks would arrive in London in contrite mood. Instead, reversing the role, they attempt to play the victim, bleating at their portrayal as bovver boys, with coach Steve Hansen quoted as saying: "I'm resigned to the fact that he (Hore) has been cited. It happens every time we come up here."
Hore will be sanctioned and ought to get at least a mid-range ban of five weeks when he appears before a disciplinary committee tomorrow.
Here's the rub. No one portrays the All Blacks as thugs. Coaches are so misguided when they refuse to condemn players for foul play. They do the game, the team and the player himself a gross disservice. No one objects to a red-mist punch-up. In a brutal game such as rugby, there are bound to be times when self-restraint is stretched beyond breaking point.
There was a scuffle at Twickenham on Saturday when Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth, only cleared of a gouging charge earlier in the week, tried to take liberties with England scrum-half Ben Youngs. One in, all in, and nothing wrong with that.
Hore's case is different. His behaviour was craven and spineless, slugging a bloke from behind.
For all that, the All Blacks are not dirty. Far from it. Stuff happens. It simply needs to be dealt with and it needs to be addressed. More than any other side, the All Blacks have no need to inculcate an us-against-the-world mentality. Chances are that if the whole world turned up to play their best XV, they would still win.
Every team have their potential pillock, their closet thug. Every team have to decide whether to weed them out. Most have. The All Blacks, too, have suffered at the hands and boots of others, usually those trying to take lumps out of Richie McCaw. The bans on those villains have often been too light. But if you bleat about one and stay silent on the other, you weaken your case.
McCaw showed his class on Saturday when taking time to walk over to Wales prop Adrian Jarvis as he was being taken off on a stretcher.
You see, we can write nice things about the All Blacks. In fact, virtually every word penned these days about them comes sugar-coated. The majesty of their play is a thing to behold. Yet still they feel that they are being singled out for unfair rebuke.
There is an easy way to get rid of the paranoia. Just ditch the persecution complex, condemn thuggery and feel the love.
The All Blacks are on the cusp of being declared the greatest ever to have played the game. They top the podium in so many ways. The moral high ground, though, remains beyond them. (© Daily Telegraph, London)