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RWC News: All Blacks legends seethe over 'ridiculous' Barrett decision, Foz reacts to 'spanking', Genge's got the grumps

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28th August, 2023
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Former All Blacks have raised fears that the World Cup will be ruined as a spectacle by over-use of the bunker and “soccer-style” diving by players looking to gain a competitive edge.

Scott Barrett’s two yellow cards in the All Blacks record loss to the Springboks, provoked a concerned discussion on The Breakdown with Kiwi legends Jeff Wilson, John Kirwan, Mils Muliaina and Steve Hansen, all believing the All Blacks lock should avoid disciplinary action late Monday.

“I’m going to go straight on the offensive here: there’s no way that Scott Barrett should get any type of suspension and the fact that he’s in front of the judicial process is ridiculous because ultimately for me, this shouldn’t have even been a yellow card for going off his feet,” said Wilson.

“The contact wasn’t direct to the head. It was on the body, it was on the shoulder. There’s no doubt he’s gone off his feet, but hes hit him on the shoulder first, and then there’s been a collision with another player beside him.

“Yes, it was reckless. But the number of cleanouts that happened in a game like this happens all the time.

“The fact is that he got it wrong, he’s made a mistake, but there’s no way – and we look at a Rugby World Cup – that this is going to be the standard because of it is we’re going to rely so heavily on this bunker to look at every single breakdown, games are going last forever. “

Scott Barrett of New Zealand

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It was revealed that the All Blacks vs. Springboks game took 107 minutes but with 33 minutes of actual play.

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Muliaina agreed that Malcolm Marx had called for bunker intervention in the Barrett yellow card, and was asked if faking or diving might be an issue in France.

“Absolutely I’m worried because of the inconsistency. A TMO can pick up a bad clean, someone goes down and they’re reactive in terms of you know, faking an injury and it has massive consequences in terms of the game,” Muliaina said.

“When you’re looking at the most hotly contested Rugby World Cup, and it comes down to a moment of refereeing inconsistency it could cost the team sport in the final or the final.”

Wilson was hoping World Rugby loosened the reins for the tournament.

“We just saw in this one game, how it can affect the outcome of any contest,” he said. “I’m concerned right now for the game, going into [the RWC]. But we saw in 2019 they started heavy and then all of a sudden when it came playoff time there was a softening because they recognised the impact it was having on the game. I’m hoping this happens before the tournament starts.”

Muliaina echoed the thoughts of many fans when he added: “We don’t want to be talking about this all the time. It’s the bunker, the judiciary system, the refereeing – unfortunately after a very, very good South African comprehensive win we’re still talking about controversy, which is disappointing.”

Hansen added: “They’ve got to get better at using the bunker. Make a decision and then use the bunker and move on. You’ve got to have refs who are prepared to make decisions and not go to the bunker every five minutes, only go when you need to.”

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Kirwan, said TMO and bunker set up was too confusing.

“I don’t think this team thing is working. When a referee has got someone his ear getting him to look at everything I don’t think that’s the way we want to look at the game,” Kirwan said.

“The bunker is not working. Bill Beaumont [World Rugby chief] needs to come out and say we’ve made a mistake, we need to get back to the flow of the game.

“He said once when ‘our game is played well it’s amazing’. And I think we’d all agree with that. When it is slow and disjointed it is boring. It must be chaos out there. We need to go back to the 20 minute red card and we need to get some rhythm back into the game.”

Foster admits to ‘spanking’

Coach Ian Foster insists his All Blacks are not panicking ahead of the Rugby World Cup, despite being thrashed 35-7 by the world champion Springboks in their final warm-up at Twickenham.

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New Zealand lost Scott Barrett to a red card and shipped five tries on the way to their heaviest defeat in 102 years of Test rugby on Friday, setting off alarm bells back home.

Foster said there were some mitigating circumstances due to the necessity of giving certain players game time, and although the All Blacks looked “rusty” he urged his notoriously skittish compatriots to keep their cool.

“We’re confident. It didn’t look like that, and I know we got a good spanking, so I’m not hiding from that fact,” Foster told the All Blacks website.

“We’re not panicking about that result.

“We knew we were going to get challenged. It’s not the result we wanted (but) I still believe in the plan.

“I still believe the group that needed to play played. Scott not (for) as long as I would’ve liked.”

The All Blacks were bullied up front by the hulking South African forwards and their discipline faltered when they were put under pressure, with skipper Sam Cane also sin-binned.

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Foster said he expected hosts France to similarly try to target the All Blacks pack during their World Cup opener in Paris on September 8.

“We’ve now got a good litmus test of where we’re at,” he said. 

“Everyone is in the same boat after this weekend.

“We’ve got to use our camp in Germany really smart and go into France and get stuck in to what’s going to be an exciting World Cup.

“There was a lot of emotion in the sheds afterwards but we’ve just got to calm down and say, ‘That’s World Cups’. 

“If you’re looking for a dress rehearsal, that’s perfect.”

As well as the French, three-time World Cup winners New Zealand also face Italy, Uruguay and Namibia in Pool A.

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England make squad switch

England have confirmed that Jonny May has replaced Anthony Watson in their squad for the World Cup. Watson has been ruled out of the tournament by a calf injury so May, who started Saturday’s defeat to Fiji, has filled the gap in the 33-man party to be submitted to World Rugby on Monday.

The only other name missing from the group originally named by Steve Borthwick on August 7 is Jack van Poortvliet whose ankle problem means he has been replaced by Alex Mitchell.

Elliot Daly and Kyle Sinckler are also present as they continue their recovery from respective knee and pectoral injuries.

Meanwhile, England prop Ellis Genge has hit out at doubters in a late night tweet following their defeat to Fiji. In the early hours of Sunday morning, Genge posted: “Write us off now, all the best.”

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Then, he took to social media again on Sunday to thank supporters for their support, saying: “Big congratulations to @fijirugby on a historic win. To all the @EnglandRugby fans supporting us, we know we’re not where we need to be at all right now. We will get there, stick with us through the dark, thanks for the love we appreciate it.”

Healy left out of Ireland squad

Veteran prop Cian Healy has been left out of Ireland’s 33-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in France due to injury.

The 35-year-old suffered a calf problem in Saturday evening’s 17-13 warm-up win over Samoa.

He was helped from the field by medical staff in the first half at Stade Jean Dauger in Bayonne before being pictured on crutches.

Munster loosehead Jeremy Loughman has taken Healy’s place.

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Ulster pair Jacob Stockdale and Tom Stewart and Connacht’s Cian Prendergast have been left out by Andy Farrell.

Leinster fly-half Ciaran Frawley and Munster hooker Diarmuid Barron also failed to make the cut.

Dan Sheehan, Ronan Kelleher, Jack Conan, Dave Kilcoyne and Keith Earls have been picked, despite recent injury issues.

Fly-half Johnny Sexton, who has now completed a three-match ban, will captain his country ahead of retirement.

Ireland begin their campaign on September 9 against Romania in Bordeaux and also face Tonga, world champions South Africa and Scotland in Pool B.

Aside from the sidelined Healy, wing Stockdale is the highest profile player overlooked by head coach Farrell.

The 27-year-old, Ireland’s joint-sixth highest try-scorer with 19, has become a peripheral figure since the last World Cup amid a series of fitness setbacks.

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He started against Samoa due to Earls’ late withdrawal with a niggle but was taken off with a hamstring issue.

Veteran Earls and first-choice wide men James Lowe and Mack Hansen have been preferred to Stockdale.

Farrell’s decision to go with an 18/15 split of forwards and backs sees Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey picked and back-rower Prendergast, who started last weekend’s 29-10 win over England, overlooked.

McCloskey has impressed when selected but his opportunities at 12 have been limited by the presence of Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw, in addition to some untimely injuries.

The group includes 16 players who travelled to the 2019 World Cup in Japan under predecessor Joe Schmidt.

Sexton, Conor Murray and Earls are each set for their fourth World Cups.

Regular starters Hugo Keenan, Caelan Doris, Sheehan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Hansen and Lowe are among the 17 players preparing for their first.

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Versatile back Jimmy O’Brien, fly-half Jack Crowley and lock Joe McCarthy have each made the grade, having only made international debuts in the autumn.

Ireland squad

Forwards: Ryan Baird (Leinster), Finlay Bealham (Connacht), Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Caelan Doris (Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Ronan Kelleher (Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Jeremy Loughman (Munster), Joe McCarthy (Leinster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Tom O’Toole (Ulster), Andrew Porter, (Leinster), James Ryan (Leinster), Dan Sheehan (Leinster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster).

Backs: Bundee Aki (Connacht), Ross Byrne (Leinster), Craig Casey (Munster), Jack Crowley (Munster), Keith Earls (Munster), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster), Mack Hansen (Connacht), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Hugo Keenan (Leinster), James Lowe (Leinster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Conor Murray (Munster), Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Johnny Sexton (Leinster, captain).

(With agencies)

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