SPIRO’s Lions Tour diary: Losing Hartley strengthens Lions

Spiro Zavos Columnist

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    On the face of it, referee Wayne Barnes had no alternative but to red card Northampton captain, Dylan Hartley, for his ‘f…… cheat’ comment to him during the Aviva Premiership final over the weekend.

    The lead-up to the comment involved Barnes ordering a scrum on the Northampton 22 with time up in the first half, after the defending team stuffed up a drop out. The Leicester opposition pack put on a tremendous scrum and smashed the Northampton scrum.

    Hartley, infuriated by the series of events, lost his cool and made his infamous accusation.

    There is one big thing that need to be understood about the New Zealand born and bred Hartley. He is a Mad Dog player. He has been suspended three times in the past for gouging, biting and striking an opponent. Now comes this fourth suspension.

    It has been reported that Hartley has made efforts in the past to curb his inflammable temper. These efforts have included visits to psychologists.

    But it is clear from his words to Barnes, that the treatment hasn’t worked.

    Hartley has claimed that his words were addressed to his opposition hooker and former Lions team-mate and England rival, Tom Youngs. Barnes is a highly qualified lawyer. He is certain that the abusive comment was directed at him. I would take his word on this.

    On reflection, the British and Irish Lions coaching staff will be pleased with the outcome of this disgusting incident.

    They lose Hartley and bring into the Lions squad Rory Best, a hooker who should always have been in the team and who is likely to be in the Test side, in my opinion.

    Aside from getting a better hooker, the Lions get a player who will fit into the team’s strategy of establishing a rapport with referees in the hope/expectation of gaining kickable penalties.

    It’s been pointed out by some experts that the real reason why Sam Warburton has been made captain of the Lions is because he has a terrific record of establishing a comfortable rapport with referees.

    So although it is hard on Hartley to be booted out of the Lions squad (but thoroughly deserved), it is a win for the team. The Lions get a better player and someone who is not going to create unpleasant situations on the field to his team and the referees.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (68)

    • Roar Guru

      May 28th 2013 @ 7:10am
      biltongbek said | May 28th 2013 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      Totally agree, I was disappointed when I heard Best was not in the squad in the first place, but this has definitely improved the Lions squad.

    • May 28th 2013 @ 7:18am
      crash ball said | May 28th 2013 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      I agree Rory Best was unlucky not to make the initial squad and might actually make their starting line up.

      I love that Hartley got binned for so long. In australia if it were say QC we’d be making a billion excuses that he should be forgiven. QC speaking out against his coaches last eyar should also have been given a sentence… is it much different?… yes iin it is much worse bringing the game in disrepute. QC should have officially been given a 12 month ban.

      • May 28th 2013 @ 9:05am
        Sprigs said | May 28th 2013 @ 9:05am | ! Report

        A coach is quite different from a match official.

        • May 29th 2013 @ 1:52pm
          Wazbo said | May 29th 2013 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

          I remember one Zinzan Brooke, captian of The Auckland side playing Queensland at Ballymore in 95/96 calling ref Barry Leask the exact same thing after Barry awarded another penalty during a match where Queensland put on a cricket score against Auckland. Barry looked pretty cross and marched Zinny another ten but no card, no suspension not even disciplinary action from memory.

      • May 28th 2013 @ 11:12am
        Shop said | May 28th 2013 @ 11:12am | ! Report

        Didn’t he get a fine? I think Deans has taken it upon himself to give QC a ban, from the Wallabies at least.

        • Roar Guru

          May 28th 2013 @ 12:02pm
          AdamS said | May 28th 2013 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

          He got a fine and a suspension from the ARU, 40k and 3 months iirc.
          Deans is now applying his own punishment.

    • Roar Guru

      May 28th 2013 @ 7:19am
      B-Rock said | May 28th 2013 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      Has Hartley actually been suspended or is it just Gatland making a call?

      Agree that players should never disrespect a ref like that (even if many are thinking it) but is it that bad an infraction to miss the whole tour?

      • Roar Guru

        May 28th 2013 @ 7:32am
        biltongbek said | May 28th 2013 @ 7:32am | ! Report

        I read something around 11 or 12 weeks, can’t remember exactly but will confirm later.

        • May 28th 2013 @ 7:34am
          BBA said | May 28th 2013 @ 7:34am | ! Report

          You were right BB, he got banned for 11 weeks, so is ineligible for the Lions tour

      • Roar Guru

        May 28th 2013 @ 7:34am
        biltongbek said | May 28th 2013 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      • May 28th 2013 @ 7:36am
        CizzyRascal said | May 28th 2013 @ 7:36am | ! Report

        Yeah, I think it is worth 12 weeks (was reduced for some unfathomable reason to 11 because of good conduct at the hearing but he pleaded not guilty so they are saying by lying, he behaved well?). This is a way of rugby saying we will stick to our guns when it comes to respecting the authority in the game. It is part of our history and tradition and one that we are not willing to see go away.

        • May 28th 2013 @ 7:42am
          Red Kev said | May 28th 2013 @ 7:42am | ! Report

          Unless you’re Graham Henry. Then you can get away with accusing referees of match fixing and bias and anything else you want and get a “censure” which is fancy sounding way of saying a slap on the wrist.

          • May 28th 2013 @ 9:26am
            mania said | May 28th 2013 @ 9:26am | ! Report

            bobDwyer much?

          • May 28th 2013 @ 10:20am
            Chivas said | May 28th 2013 @ 10:20am | ! Report

            Alan Jones says what he wants about anyone and pretty much goes uncensored. Some on here aren’t much better with defamatory comments and bile accusations. I think I read someone write on here the other day Deans statement about his thoughts on why Taps was struggling outside Cooper could be up for legal action…. Obviously a completely ludicrous comment, but there are no rules on what can or cannot be said, unless it’s in a rugby game apparently and to the ref.

            It’s all nuts, but I’m not sure who is nuttier at times. Those saying / writing it or those listening / reading it.

            • Roar Guru

              May 28th 2013 @ 10:53am
              Jiggles said | May 28th 2013 @ 10:53am | ! Report

              How would the ARU/IRB censor Alan Jones?

              • May 28th 2013 @ 11:46pm
                Chivas said | May 28th 2013 @ 11:46pm | ! Report

                With great difficulty I imagine :-). Point was really about general censorship… Some get away with it and some don’t, it’s rather discretionary. Whether it be a coach, a player, a commentator, a fan… Some might argue Hartley was right to say what he said and the ref is to blame. We see similar comments made here about players and coaches or coaches and refs. Players can comment off field, but the hammer comes down if said on field. Stepping back a bit it just seems odd, that we frame who can say what and where it can be said… Yet the intent isn’t different but the punishment varies depending.

                Anyway just an observation which went over RK’s head. Hope the keeper caught it 🙂

              • May 29th 2013 @ 2:39am
                mugsy in japan said | May 29th 2013 @ 2:39am | ! Report

                It all depends where and when. I can tell my boss or client to F off due to relationship status and there`s no drama, but I can punch neither of them in any situation. I possibly could on the field with only a few weeks penalty. In the real world that is possibly gaol time It`s all about circumstances and perception and maintaining perceived authority. I believe this was probably the correct decision as perciptionof authority is extremely important on the field. These men are physically weaker in general and are trying to control 30+ physical monsters. Order needs to be kept, otherwise we have anarchy.

            • May 28th 2013 @ 11:01am
              Red Kev said | May 28th 2013 @ 11:01am | ! Report

              Radio Shock Jock versus current Super Rugby Assistant Coach – yes totally the same.

              • May 29th 2013 @ 12:22am
                Chivas said | May 29th 2013 @ 12:22am | ! Report

                And the above comment was a joke RK…. I had to :-).

            • Roar Guru

              May 28th 2013 @ 12:13pm
              AdamS said | May 28th 2013 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

              There are rules. Libel, defamation and slander laws apply to everyone on and off the field.
              If the CEO of a company publicly listed a raft of largely baseless perceived deficiencies of a job applicant as a reason for not hiring him, including the fact that he causes other employees to perform badly, he would almost certainly have to be prepared to defend those statements in court.

              • May 28th 2013 @ 11:48pm
                Chivas said | May 28th 2013 @ 11:48pm | ! Report

                I take it you aren’t a lawyer.

        • May 28th 2013 @ 7:27pm
          Well Ruck me. said | May 28th 2013 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

          I dont think its even worth a week.
          Yellow card yes, red for a repeat offence, straight red and suspension for aggressive or threatening language.
          To say “f-ing cheat” and not even be 100% sure it is you and get 11-12 eeeks is a joke.
          Nobody was hurt, nobody was threatened, all it was was a four letter word followed by an accusation in the heat of the moment. Big deal.
          Yellow card tops.

          • May 29th 2013 @ 12:05pm
            Andrew C (waikato) said | May 29th 2013 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

            Well, two refs who really hack me off are Wayne Barnes & Steve Walsh for their decision making at times (or in Barnes’s case in RWC semi in 2007 – when he couldn’t see even one penalty against the Frogs in the second half, a distinct BLINDNESS ). Twits the both of them. 🙂

    • May 28th 2013 @ 7:34am
      CizzyRascal said | May 28th 2013 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      I’m really happy for this. I thought Rowntree had far too much say in the selection of the front row stocks and the best hooker available was left out. Rowntree cited Hartley’s aggressive side as the reason he was picked, well look where that has gotten him.

      It’ll be interesting to see how much of a chance Best gets. Best is an 80 minute forward, an increasingly rare occurrence in modern day rugby. My preference would be to start him in the Tests and have Youngs come off the bench, I think that gives a strong 60 or so minutes but also real impact from the bench, while giving the option of keeping Best on if a change might be detrimental to the side.

      • Roar Guru

        May 28th 2013 @ 7:53am
        Rugby Fan said | May 28th 2013 @ 7:53am | ! Report

        Gatland is a former hooker himself. I doubt he subcontracted decision-making on that position to his other coaches.

        • May 28th 2013 @ 8:00am
          CizzyRascal said | May 28th 2013 @ 8:00am | ! Report

          Looking at the comments made after the squad announcement and even choices like Vunipola and Stevens, you’d have to think that Gatland put a lot of trust in Rowntree’s selections.

    • May 28th 2013 @ 8:04am
      FTR said | May 28th 2013 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      I don’t get all this love for Rory Best. He’s a nice bloke and a decent player but let’s be frank, he’s no Bismarck du Plessis. The net impact of the Hartley farrago is precisely zero: it’s one average hooker replacing another average hooker.

      Hooker is a weak spot for the Lions. The wobbly darts of Best, Youngs and Hibbard will be a big concern to Gatland.

      • Roar Guru

        May 28th 2013 @ 8:15am
        biltongbek said | May 28th 2013 @ 8:15am | ! Report

        Who is Bismarck du Plessis?

        The only one coming close is Adriaan Strauss.

      • May 28th 2013 @ 8:31am
        Roarer said | May 28th 2013 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        Word is Old Gats is chucking on the boots. Might even play 10.

        • May 28th 2013 @ 11:52am
          Riccardo said | May 28th 2013 @ 11:52am | ! Report

          That’s good news then.

          The Wallabies need a 10 apparently…

    • May 28th 2013 @ 8:25am
      PGNEWC said | May 28th 2013 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Love Spiros comments that its about who butters up the Referees more to get penalties not how skilled the player is . Rugby is a game for the upper professional classes and apparently being a solicitor/barrister is far more important than scoring tries.

      • May 28th 2013 @ 9:14pm
        Well Ruck me. said | May 28th 2013 @ 9:14pm | ! Report

        Rugby is not a game for the upper classes anywhere but Australia and even there its exagerated.

        • May 29th 2013 @ 1:07am
          GWS said | May 29th 2013 @ 1:07am | ! Report

          Sure. ..

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