Paul Lewis on sport

Paul Lewis is the Herald on Sunday's Sport Editor

Paul Lewis: Case for self-discipline

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Hore was totally in the wrong by coldcocking Bradley Davies from behind, even if that was not his intent. Photo / Getty Images
Hore was totally in the wrong by coldcocking Bradley Davies from behind, even if that was not his intent. Photo / Getty Images

Here's a novel thought - self-regulation. The All Blacks should punish culprits like Andrew Hore themselves and signal that rugby's judicial process is so slow and outmoded that it does not meet the needs of the day.

Rather than making nudge-nudge, wink-wink remarks while tip-toeing round the sanctity of the judicial process, it would have been terrific to see coach Steve Hansen and the All Black management dish out their own punishment without waiting for the excruciating slowness and the dubious results of the IRB machinery.

To those who will now holler that there is a process and that it has to be respected, I say: Thrffwwwwppppptttt. That is the sound of a massive raspberry coming your way. A crap process is a crap process and if anyone believes the rather overblown contention that the Adam Thomson-Andrew Hore business is damaging the All Black brand, then the All Blacks should act.

It will be (rightly) pointed out that the All Blacks cannot take unilateral action against Hore because he could have a legal response to any moves outside the prescribed pathway - but this situation demands action.

For example, what would have been the reaction if the All Blacks turned around and banned Hore for, let's say, four weeks? A proper ban - four test matches, starting with England this weekend and incorporating the first three tests of the 2013 season. Not the artificiality of a five-week ban which encompasses three pre-season games next year, matches of no significance. Hore may not have played anyway. So, effectively, this was a two-week ban.

Hore could contest a punishment not formulated through official channels. However, maybe the time has passed for waiting for the IRB's wheels to grind so slowly to a conclusion. The Thomson business took two weeks to settle once the citing, hearing and IRB review had all taken place. Fans, media, players and administrators all bit at the stitches in the meantime.

It was surely not beyond the realms of human achievement for the All Blacks to sit down with Hore, his manager and his lawyer and agree on a punishment in such an open and shut case. There will be a clause in his contract somewhere about bringing the game into disrepute. Hore would be allowed to explain himself but the video evidence was clear: Hore was totally in the wrong by coldcocking Bradley Davies from behind, even if that was not his intent.

It's not a happy thing to point the finger at Hansen on this one. The coach has not only done so well with the All Blacks so far, his candour and humour on all matters have been a breath of fresh air. Such clearcut evidence demands clear action, not what Hansen said after the match: "I am just resigned to the fact that he will probably get cited. That's what happens every time we come up here ... I think they think we're thugs or something, but we don't play different to anyone else."

To most objective ears, that sounds (a) defensive, (b) facile and (c) devoid of any apology or even mention of the best wishes for Davies' health. Yes, the All Blacks get some unfair press and have to deal with an exaggerated perception that they are more violent rugby players than others. The misconception can be seen when you line up transgressors who are not All Blacks (see feature, p64-65) - and that doesn't even include Dylan Hartley, the England hooker whose forearm jolt on All Black skipper Richie McCaw on a previous tour passed almost without comment and certainly without punishment.


The only way to deal with an errant perception is to replace it with the correct one. The South Africans, no angels themselves, got it right after Dean Greyling's almost equally cowardly attack on McCaw this year.

Coach Heyneke Meyer said: "I want to apologise to Richie McCaw." Captain Jean de Villiers also said the Boks would never condone "playing dirty".

The All Blacks need to go further now and break out of a judicial process which can restrict the right thing happening at the right time - and even the right thing being said at the right time. Assistant coach Ian Foster adopted the usual "no comment" style when asked questions about Hore and the incident. The judicial process often becomes a kind of shield behind which coaches and players can hide - when all that is needed is honest appraisal and action. Hansen tried to skirt between not prejudicing an inquiry and speaking up for his player but only sounded unrepentant.

Self-regulation is worth a try. The world's national unions can grasp this nettle without having to wear the gloves of bureaucracy. The IRB could have a global judicial "flying squad" to review and oversee individual punishments - altering them if necessary to ensure that appropriate sentences are passed and cleaning up the inconsistencies which undermine the current process. Like the two weeks handed out to Greyling, the Thomson saga and the eight weeks given to Wallaby lock Rob Simmons for something a great deal less offensive than Greyling's effort. Or Hore's.

The All Blacks and the New Zealand Rugby Union already lead the world in many ways. How good it would be to see them grab the lead here too.

- Herald on Sunday

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