Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Patrick McKendry: Thomson review leaves IRB boss exposed

Adam Thomson. Photo / Getty Images
Adam Thomson. Photo / Getty Images

Hooray for Brett Gosper, the International Rugby Board's new chief executive, for taking a stand on the organisation's "image", "values" and "integrity" and reviewing Adam Thomson's ban for stomping.

After all, as the IRB said in a statement regarding what it says was an unduly lenient sanction of a one-week ban (reduced from two weeks for good behaviour) for the All Blacks's use of the boot against Scotland's Alasdair Strokosch at Murrayfield, "disciplinary regulation is intended to protect all players and the game through the strict application of a sanctioning regime that acts as a strong deterrent against acts of foul play".

Strokosch insisted afterwards that Thomson's act was not deliberate.

The trouble for Gosper is that he has taken a very keen interest in this case from the beginning, assuring disgruntled British journalists on Twitter that he would review it.

Now he has appointed himself a crusader for justice, how is the Australian - who started in the role only months ago after replacing Mike Miller - going to have time to do anything else? There are incidents which could be construed as foul play in just about every rugby game, many of which offend people. How will Gosper respond to those?

And also, where was the IRB's concern following the constant attacks on All Blacks' captain Richie McCaw?

There have been many recently, but the worst was the sickening assault from Springboks prop Dean Greyling on McCaw in the Rugby Championship game in Dunedin. Greyling didn't like what his opponent was doing in a ruck so launched his 128kg frame and hit McCaw in the face with his forearm. For that he was sinbinned, cited, and given a two-week ban - missing only one test as the Boks had the following weekend off. Hardly a strong deterrent, was it?

So many questions, so few answers. The latest comment from Gosper, who has embraced the use of the social media platform - inappropriately at times when proper process should be followed following judicial hearings such as Thomson's - was that he couldn't comment, although it seems he couldn't quite help himself: "Can't comment but appreciate support as well as 'input'! IRB has genuine love of All Black Rugby and Values."

Quite apart from the high and mighty language in the IRB's statement - "As custodians of rugby worldwide, the IRB has a duty to protect its image, values and integrity together with the welfare of players at all levels in order that the sport can continue its unprecedented growth and welcome more men, women and children to the rugby family" - and the apparent bullying of Gosper by British journalists who always seem to have bees in their bonnets about the All Blacks, it is the inconsistency which irks.

When APNZ approached the IRB for comment after the sanction (two weeks) handed down for the most recent attack on McCaw - the use of the head and knee in Brisbane by Scott Higginbotham - the organisation suggested we approach the Australia Rugby Union as they were hosting the match.

The ARU, predictably, defended the process and the sanction.

Over to you, Brett.


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Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby writer Patrick McKendry began his journalism career 20 years ago and has worked in newspapers in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He worked in a communications role on his return here before joining APN before the 2011 World Cup.

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