Richie McCaw, by common consent probably the best allround rugby player in the world, consistently breaks the laws of the game, a former World Cup-winning coach says.
Australian Bob Dwyer outlined a measured indictment not just of McCaw's play but of the referees who, he alleged, allow the All Blacks captain to bend the rules. Dwyer's comments will be digested carefully by rugby fans around the world.
"In my view, Richie is a great player, probably the best in the world. He is an outstandingly good, talented player, as was shown by his pick-up of the ball from a pass in Hong Kong for his second-half try.
"But McCaw gets away with illegality partly because he has taken over the mantle of the No 1 referee in the world from Sean Fitzpatrick. There is an absolutely widespread belief outside New Zealand that this is the case.
"We think he is allowed by referees to make his first point of entry [at the breakdown] at which he claims a shot at the opposition ball from the side rather than going in through what is called 'the rear gate'.
"He then swings the rest of his body around so he finishes up in an illegal position, shutting off any opponent from getting the ball. Illegally, he has denied the opposition a shot at possession. On your own ball, referees seem to allow this entry from the side."
Dwyer's comments follow an edict by the IRB last week reiterating the need to promote consistency and a fair contest for possession. Referees were reminded of their obligation to operate a zero tolerance policy towards illegal entry, hands in the ruck, sealing off the ball, illegal clearing out and illegal scrum feeds.
But the Australian countered: "I have a few questions concerning this 'directive'. Does the law concerning entry apply equally to the team in possession and the defending team? If so, what sanctions will apply to referees ignoring the directive? Does the law concerning 'sealing off the ball' apply to all teams, including New Zealand, who consistently, and even constantly, go over the ball en masse?
"At present, there seems to be some other, more private, directive to referees, which informs that none of these contents apply to Richie McCaw."
Dwyer scorns the suggestion that this situation exists because it has become impossible for any referee to see everything going on at the breakdown.
"I think it's pretty easy for the referee. It's harder for him to see things away from the breakdown because his focus should be on the ball.
"The breakdown has become a shambles but it need not be if you insist on what the law says. If you stick the ball under your stomach and the ball doesn't appear immediately, it is a penalty against you. This business about teams claiming they release the ball and it is under their body is absurd ... But referees, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, seem more tolerant about holding onto the ball.
"I just feel the IRB should insist on what they preach. If they say the contest for the ball at the breakdown is equal for both teams, why don't they insist on that? They clearly don't at the moment."