Henry match-fixing fears labelled 'nonsense'

By Hayden Donnell, Vaimoana Tapaleao

A referee selector for the 2007 Rugby World Cup has rubbished Sir Graham Henry's claims match-fixing was to blame for the All Blacks' shock quarter final defeat to France.

In a new book, Henry reveals his outrage at what he sees as mistakes and injustices leading to the All Blacks loss.

He told Radio Sport the team had been "sawn off" by English referee Wayne Barnes and other officials and admitted suspicions match fixing was involved.

The All Blacks were cheated out of victory, he said.

Bob Francis, a New Zealander who oversaw refereeing appointments for the 2007 Rugby World Cup, said those claims were "nonsense".

"They're extreme at the very least and in actual fact I believe they were nonsense and I think it brings into question his judgement at that time."

Francis admitted there were some poor refereeing decisions during the quarter final.

However, Henry's poor decisions on preparing and conditioning the All Blacks in the lead up to the cup were more to blame for the loss, he said.

"He needs to look at himself rather than switch the blame... the team played poorly that day. I think there were some refereeing decision that were questionable. But if you go back through the whole lead up from 12 months out from that world cup, there were a lot of mistakes made in the way they were conditioned and prepared. The chickens came home to roost that day."

British rugby writer Stephen Jones, a long-time critic of New Zealand rugby, tweeted yesterday that the comments were a "puke-making assault on Wayne Barnes by bitter Graham Henry".

Barnes was the English referee who controlled the quarter-final in Cardiff.

There was also criticism closer to home, sports broadcaster Murray Deaker saying Henry would "regret this" and that the statement was all to do with book sales.

"To bring it out now, after everything that rugby has done for him, I find it amazing."

Henry's comments would be badly received internationally, Deaker said.

"And what average fans overseas will say is, 'There's those New Zealanders whingeing again'. We had just gotten rid of that sort of title because we hosted that Rugby World Cup so well. So many people went out of their way to dispel the whole arrogance which has surrounded New Zealand rugby for so long.

"We went out of our way to make sure people had a good time, but we may as well not have done that - it will be forgotten," Deaker said.

Callers angry about Henry's claims flooded Deaker's phone-lines during his NewstalkZB show yesterday. One woman said they had left her with an "unpleasant taste in the back of the mouth".

After the 18-20 loss to France in Cardiff, Henry maintained his silence. He was even awarded an international fair-play trophy for his "exemplary attitude" after the shock defeat.

But in the book, he reveals how much he was seething.

He says he became physically sick after reviewing video of the match in his hotel room. He says Barnes missed 40 penalties.

Last night, he told TVNZ's Sunday programme: "The All Blacks didn't get a penalty for the last 60 minutes of the game ... and were on attack for 70 per cent of that time. Now that's impossible - but it wasn't impossible on that particular day.

"I asked the Rugby Union and the international board if there was any law or any system they used to look at bizarre games and look at the possibility of sports betting."

Asked if the officials were cheating or were incompetent, Henry said: "I guess that's why you have a system of analysing those things. If you had a system of analysing, maybe you would come to a result and I could answer that question."

Some in the rugby world have supported Henry's comments.

Former Springbok Joel Stransky told NewstalkZB the All Blacks received several tough calls from Barnes that day, and Paris-based sports journalist Ian Borthwick said the match statistics were bizarre.

"Suddenly France became the most disciplined team in the history of international rugby."

But both men queried the wisdom of making the comments so long after the event.

"I think there will be a lot of people saying it is sour grapes" said Stransky. "It's five years later and all of a sudden now all these allegations - why didn't you come with them before?"

Borthwick said it was disappointing to see that "negative feeling" revealed so long after the match took place.

There was firmer support from All Blacks great Sir Colin Meads, who told the Herald last night: "I know Graham Henry pretty well and he's hugely right up with the play and he'd be pretty sure with his facts."

Sir Colin, who was in the stands watching the match, said there were many times he became frustrated during it.

But he said: "The All Blacks were in a fair bit of disarray too - coming off with injuries and things left, right and centre. We let the French back into it.

"We've got to be honest and say we didn't play well, although there were things like that forward pass."

- Herald Online

- NZ Herald

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