Gregor Paul on rugby

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Fouls tally calls for scrutiny

53 comments
Imbalance of citings in favour of Northern Hemisphere raises plenty of questions.

Rugby's rule book is open to interpretation which may explain why this month eight players from the Southern Hemisphere have been cited for foul play while not one from the north has.

Discipline, or lack of, has become a prevailing theme throughout the autumn tests and of all the statistics to emerge in the past few weeks, this landslide victory to the Southern Hemisphere is easily the most interesting for it generates an environment for conspiracies to breed.

The All Blacks are at the epicentre of the storm. The actions of Adam Thomson and Andrew Hore have only added weight to the widely held perception of the All Blacks as thugs - an image they may never shake.

But is the tail wagging the dog? When was the last time the All Blacks had a player cited before Thomson?

It was Keven Mealamu, playing against England in London two years ago. Before that? Daniel Carter playing against Wales in Cardiff in 2009.

Rarely in the past five years have All Blacks been cited when they have played in the Southern Hemisphere. Discipline has only been an issue when they have come to Europe.

How to explain that? Are the Northern Hemisphere sides just a bit soft - protected by a zealous judiciary who keep forgetting it is not tiddlywinks? Or is rugby in the Southern Hemisphere a little edgier, full of rough diamonds and blue collars who feel eggs have to be broken to make omelettes? Or, more sinister yet, has the overwhelming dominance of Southern Hemisphere nations in the past five years resulted in their Northern Hemisphere opponents having become avid trawlers of video footage in the hope they can find some dirt to throw?

It seems odd, a huge anomaly, that the Rugby Championship and its Tri Nations predecessor threw up only occasional and isolated incidents of foul play and now, in the space of three weeks, the judiciary has been crammed with supposed Southern Hemisphere thugs.

Thomson and Hore have been joined in the dock by, among others, South Africa's Eben Etzebeth and Australia's Rob Simmons and Sitaleki Timani. Tonga, Samoa and Argentina have also had to attend hearings.

No one who follows Super rugby and the Rugby Championship would argue that the game in the Southern Hemisphere is riddled with filth.

There are incidents; there are unsavoury moments and ill-timed and clumsy tackles and cleanouts and the like: but consistent cheap shots ... no, not from any international side, especially not now Bakkies Botha has moved on.

Strangely, the same couldn't be said of the game in Europe, where eye-gouging appears to be endemic; where this year England captain Dylan Hartley was cited for biting.

Just as odd, if not more so, than the excessive citings of the Southern Hemisphere players is the non-citing of any from the North - England especially have a poor track record in recent times, with Danny Grewcock, Hartley and Chris Ashton all well known to the judiciary.

It is impossible to have rational debate on this issue, but it is needed: the statistics of the past few weeks paint an alarming picture - one that is hard to fit in with the prevailing trends.

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 25 Jul 2014 08:57:17 Processing Time: 780ms