Ref faces backlash as 'pampered' ABs, not Henry, take the blame

Angry All Black fans have struck out hard on the internet, posting on a site dedicated to the "hatred" of referee Wayne Barnes.

A page on the social networking site Bebo is dedicated to criticism of Mr Barnes.

It claims Mr Barnes made a list of mistakes which includes sending Luke McAlister off, not penalising the French for being off-side and missing a forward pass.

The messages range from violent threats to the more light hearted: "We all make mistakes but... grrrr".

Many of the messages use explicit language and blame Mr Barnes for the All Blacks loss to France, while others call for calm.

"Anyway, as sad as it is, I think we should all get over it and move on with our lives. Perhaps if the ref had made different calls it would be a totally different result, but lets face it; we lost, game over."

The site has been viewed by 900 people so far.

An angry New Zealand public is pointing the finger at the "pampering" of the All Blacks as much as they are criticising the referee and Graham Henry's player rotation policy as the reason for the national team's shock exit from the World Cup.

In the thousands of Your Views pouring in to the Herald's website, there is some questioning of the new professional money-driven age of rugby which has seen rugby become a "brand".

Photos of the All Blacks published in recent weeks have shown players swimming and looking as if they are on holiday have drawn fire.

One reader today summed up the All Blacks as "an over- hyped team, treated like gods, acted like tin gods".

He continued: "Thirty players with over 30 support team at a cost of over $50 million, they should have their heads read and they are only as good as Fiji. What other team had a holiday during preparation time because they needed it? They hadn't had any real work at that stage."

"They're just pampered and arrogant," declared Mary from Auckland.

Garry, from Auckland's North Shore, added: "Clearly New Zealand winning a world cup is no longer an issue of skill or depth, but possibly a lack of mental aptitude."

Other readers, though, have attacked coach Henry's four-year build-up, especially the resting and rotation of players and questioned whether he had a plan B yesterday when Dan Carter had to come off because of injury.

But Henry appears to retain the support of the majority of the public. A poll answered by more than 3400 people yesterday and overnight found 57 per cent wanted him to stay on as coach.

And a poll today, asking who should be the next coach, has widely-tipped favourite Robbie Deans running at 38 per cent, against 48 per cent for Henry among the first 2700 people to vote.

A commenter calling herself "Rugby girl" noted that sacking previous coaches after World Cup exits didn't work.

"Perhaps this time, if we kept Graham Henry until the 2011 World Cup, we might actually win," she said.

Others, however, questioned his selection policy. Kelly Clark, a Kiwi in Afghanistan, said: "The best halfback was left at home (Weepu), the most penetrating centre in world rugby was left at home (Nonu) - when are we going to learn you cannot play people out of position at the World Cup?"

Others have blamed the referring decisions and its impact on player morale.

"No team can play the ref and the linesman and still win," wrote Kathy from Tuakau.

And Puff from Auckland said: "The sad thing is that all the hard work and effort can come down to one bad ref's decisions. The ABs should have been able to pull out of it though, but did not."

French readers writing to Your Views have been especially vicious about the All Blacks and gloated that the team and New Zealand public greatly under-estimated the French team.

- NZ HERALD STAFF

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