Gregor Paul: Gallaher gimmick made a real mockery of test

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It's been a shameful month for New Zealand rugby. The boorish bottle-throwing fans in Dunedin shocked the French. The All Blacks' lack of physicality shocked New Zealanders.

A total goose of a girl invaded the pitch in Wellington only to be thumped by a bigger goose of a security guard and then, of course, there was the infamously manufactured Mathieu Bastareaud 'assault' after the game.

The New Zealand Rugby Union probably did more damage to the game, though, with the ridiculous concept of deciding the Dave Gallaher Cup on points difference.

For years and years we have heard the national body fume about the need to restore credibility and integrity to the June test window and then they come up with a gimmick.

A test match is simple. Two countries pick their best players and at the end, the one with the most points wins. There is no grey area - no blurred objective - the goal is to find a winner and a loser.

The NZRU put the All Blacks in an embarrassing situation.

Since when did it matter what the winning margin was? It's one thing to have a bonus point culture in Super Rugby, but to dilute the integrity of a test by chasing points, is not only degrading the value of tests, it is encouraging harmful habits.

For those who wondered why Piri Weepu didn't keep the ball alive in the dying seconds ask this: how would everyone have felt if, four points ahead with time almost up, the French had won 15-14 after snaffling turnover ball as a result of the All Blacks chancing their arm?

Would anyone have thought it was reasonable that the All Blacks chased the trophy ahead of the test win?

Would we have said Graham Henry was right to ask for expansive football, to have briefed his troops on the need to win by five points or more?

Maybe it's time for New Zealanders to ask whether their default emotion is set to moan. Maybe they need to flick the switch and be a little more objective - to ask, really, does anyone care about the Gallaher Cup?

Is there really any upset or outrage that it has been lost? Does the nation want test wins or are too many people simply after whatever it is they feel they don't get on the night?

The Gallaher Cup and also the newly created Hillary Shield which is up for grabs when New Zealand play England were not, despite what the NZRU wants us to believe, created to honour the memories of two great New Zealanders.

They were thought up as a means to generate interest and help sell tickets. In the background remains the hope that by offering silverware, these tests will hold more appeal to sponsors.

Henry has been criticised for not telling the players about how the trophy would be decided.

But isn't it interesting that none of the players even asked? Is that a sign that they wouldn't be able to brush their teeth unless they were told or did they not ask because, frankly, none of them cared?

For the good of New Zealand rugby, it has to be hoped it's the latter. However dumb the national body might be, the All Blacks at least don't appear to have lost sight of the fact that winning individual tests is all that matters.

- Herald on Sunday

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