Infamous acts of rugby violence

By Gregor Paul

Judging by the Herald on Sunday's bulging mailbag, it's apparent the act of thuggery that saw Richie McCaw strangled by a Hurricanes player has caused outrage.

Rugby is no stranger to acts of violence. Over the years fans have seen players punch, kick, headbutt, eye-gouge, bite, stamp and grab the family jewels. But throttling? That's a new one.

So we thought (it's Easter and we didn't have much else to do) we would compile a Top 10 of dastardly acts to see how the incident at the Cake Tin would compare with this hall of shame.

We leave it to you, to make your minds up.

1: The punch felt around the world
England v Argentina, 1990

Frederico Mendez, just 18 and still at school, for reasons best known to himself, opted to use a break in play to casually wander over to English lock Paul Ackford and hit him flush on the chin with an enormous haymaker.

Ackford was unconscious before he hit the ground. Mendez, perhaps because of his age and the fact it was only his second cap, was daft enough to commit his act of thuggery in full view of not only the referee but also the 70,000 fans crammed into Twickenham.

Mendez later said he meant to hit opposite prop Jeff Probyn, who he claimed had stamped on him at an earlier ruck.

Probyn was short, fat and round. Ackford was 2.02m and 118kg. You can see how Mendez confused the two.

2: Loe hits Corozza on the snozza
Australia v NZ, 1992

Tension was high in the second Bledisloe Cup test of 1992, with the Wallabies having sneaked the first test 16-15 in Sydney.

And then it all got too much for All Black prop and Herald on Sunday columnist Richard Loe.

Australian wing Paul Carozza slid in for his first of two tries that day and before he even had time to think about cracking a smile he was wondering how come his nose was spread across his face. The answer was that it had been hit by the forearm of Loe, who had dropped on Carozza just after the wing had scored.

The incident left Loe the most reviled man in Australia and Carozza famous not for being a half-useful Wallaby, but for being king-hit.

3: Here's one in your eye
 N Harbour v Wellington, 1997

The picture possibly makes this look worse than it was. The incident went undetected during the game and only came to prominence after photos showed what appeared to be Harbour's Troy Flavell viciously eye-gouging Wellington's Steve Sinkinson.

Harbour were outraged when the promising Flavell was initially banned for a year on the strength of the photograph.

Harbour appealed, Sinkinson confirmed he had not been aware of much during the game and the ban was reduced to three weeks.

4: Kyran Bracken takes a whacking
England v NZ, 1993

With his fluffy, public schoolboy quiff and plummy voice, England halfback Kyran Bracken was quite easy to dislike. He didn't, however, deserve to have his ankle almost snapped in half by All Black flanker Jamie Joseph.

Bracken was 21 and making his test debut against an All Black side who had hammered Scotland the week before.

Joseph, presumably keen to test the character of the young Pom, saw Bracken's leg sticking out of an early ruck and gave it an almighty stamp. Everyone bar the referee saw the stamp but Bracken hobbled on for the full 80 and played his part in a famous English victory.

5: Fitzy's ear mistaken for a cauliflower
South Africa, 1994

Somehow, during the second test between the All Blacks and Springboks in Wellington, Springbok prop Johan le Roux thought it would be a good idea to bite Sean Fitzpatrick's ear.

In the sanctity of the scrum, no one would ever find out. Except le Roux did a rather splendid job and took a chunk off said ear. There was blood and needless to say a volatile All Black skipper when the scrum came up.

It ended with le Roux being banned for 18 months. After which he said: "For an 18-month suspension, I feel I probably should have torn it off. Then at least I could say, 'look, I've returned to South Africa with the guy's ear'."

6: Loey back in the dock again
Waikato v Otago, 1992

1992 was a year of penitence for Mr Loe. Shortly after smacking Carozza, he was back in front of the judiciary, this time for eye-gouging All Black team-mate Greg Cooper.

It's hard to imagine what Cooper, possibly the world's nicest human, could have done to deserve such treatment.

Loe was banned for six months but as we at the Herald on Sunday have discovered, Loe is probably the second-nicest human on the planet. He just needed to get that anger out of his system.

7: When Serge Blanco went bonkers
France v England, 1991

Back in 1991, England were even less lovable than they are now. Bristling with arrogance, the Poms went to Paris boasting how they would cruise through their World Cup quarter-final.

And, just to really upset the French, the English were living up to their boast. So when French fullback Serge Blanco called a mark, he was a little miffed that England's wing Nigel Heslop lightly bumped him. Well, he was a lot miffed, really, because Blanco reacted by punching the unfortunate Heslop ever so hard.

The Englishman was knocked cold and all hell broke lose. Somehow, Blanco escaped censure.

8: Wake me up before I go-go
NZ v Wales, 1987

Ah, the irony. Welsh lock Huw Richards was having a pat-a-cake struggle with Gary Whetton during the 1987 World Cup semi in Brisbane.

Buck Shelford decided he would break it up and landed a colossal punch on Richards. The ref saw it, the touch judge saw it, all 20,000 people in the stadium saw it, along with millions of TV viewers around the world.

Yet, incredibly, Richards was revived by the side of the pitch just so he could be shown the red card for giving Whetton a few handbags before Shelford arrived with his peacemaker.

9: Ear, cut that out
Bath v London Scottish, 1998

It was a classic whodunnit. Bath were playing London Scottish in a crucial premiership game when Scots flanker Simon Fenn rose from a collapsed scrum with his ear pouring blood from a cut that required 25 stitches. Someone had bitten his lug and, after a week-long internal review, Bath prop Kevin Yates was fingered as the culprit.

"In my experience as a referee, I've never experienced anything like it," said match official Ashley Rowden. "The player was clearly missing some part of his ear lobe. There was a lot of blood."

Yates protested his innocence but was found guilty and banned from playing for six months.

Yates later enjoyed two seasons with the Hurricanes and won two English caps.

10: When David floored Goliath
Leicester v Saracens, 2002

Titchy tiny Saracens and Scotland hooker Robbie Russell found out the hard way that Martin Johnson is not a man who plays with humour close to the surface.

After finding Johnson blocking his path to the next breakdown, Russell gave the big man a shove-come-slap to hurry him along.

Johnson decided that wasn't acceptable so chased after Russell, grabbed him by the collar, swung him round and then delivered a hefty punch to his opponent's face.

Russell needed stitches to close the wound and was forced to retire.

Johnson at least admitted later that: "I shouldn't have done it. I overreacted to that situation. He [Russell] didn't really provoke me, I misread the situation."

Still, it was easy for him to be contrite as he knew it would persuade the RFU not to hit him with a disrepute charge.

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