There's an old Irish proverb which rather splendidly applies to some of the bile displayed after the All Blacks won that brutal encounter with Ireland last weekend.

It goes something like: "May the curse of Mary Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children chase you so far over the hills of Damnation that the Lord himself cannot find you with a telescope."

They do a good curse, the Irish. They also do a good transformation - after 111 years of being charming losers, they turned into the English; the whinging about over-physical play by the All Blacks reached Twickenham proportions.

Yet thank God for the Irish; with those last three tests against the All Blacks, they have created a whole new rugby rivalry likely to flower for many years. Coach Joe Schmidt and his team have built a side of ability, accuracy, toughness and, crucially, depth. To that mix, we can now stir in emotion - the All Blacks will not forget in a hurry how the Northern Hemisphere howled for their blood after they won at Aviva Stadium. They have respect for the Irish but there will now be a longing to repeat the dose. I have no idea when the next test against Ireland is but ... can't wait.


The Irish blamed everyone but themselves. Ireland, in Chicago, would have set a scrum and gone for the tries instead of kicking for goal twice when they had the All Blacks in trouble at Aviva. They lost their bottle; that was buried beneath all the shrieking about foul play, a loser's lament if ever there was one.

It's new for the Irish but, for many of those taking up the cudgels on their behalf, it's a practised art. The English have been doing it for decades - harping on about rough play and rarking up the referees to be more vigilant against the All Blacks. Meanwhile, cherubs like multi-red-carded England lock Danny Grewcock received little or no public censure.

It's a PR campaign, an attempt to choke talent by stuffing the interpretative rulebook down throats, an off-field ploy to shape events on it. Columnists brazenly use clickbait to hook outraged readers. It's not really a conspiracy, it's more like a rainstorm - where the drops, each formed around a speck of national bias, produce a flood of sentiment.

Malakai Fekitoa deserved a ban for his clumsy tackle - but it clearly contained no malice. Sam Cane? Please. People who should know a lot better accused Cane, like former England star Jerry Guscott in his BBC column: "For me ... it was shoulder first. His [Cane's] left arm seemed to be angled behind his shoulder and he hit [Robbie] Henshaw's head. Your view of how that decision went depended on what side of the equator you are on."

Hello? What planet did Guscott play rugby on when he was a classy midfielder? In what universe does a rugby tackle not lead with the shoulder? Anyone who has ever played the game knows the shoulder hits first and the arms wrap around. The injury to Henshaw was caused by a head clash when he twisted out of a tackle unexpectedly as Cane came in.

There was obviously no intent, underlined by Cane's clearance by the judiciary.

In an earlier column, Guscott said of South Africa's fading rugby stocks: "To say South African rugby is in crisis is an exaggeration." They promptly lost to Italy, meaning they have lost four out of 11 tests, plus losing to Japan in 2015. Guscott's perspectives seem about as useful as a jam sandwich to a drowning rabbit; not all good players make good analysts.

Former Irish lock Neil Francis wrote in his Irish Independent column the Cane tackle "was a shoulder-charge which ended in contact with Henshaw's face ... whether Cane attempted to complete a wrap is irrelevant - the point of contact was shoulder to face and that is a red card".

Just goes to show how the blinkers of nationalism obscure objective judgement. The game and the collisions are different from the days of Guscott and Francis - they are faster, harder and more frequent and do not necessarily involve a man holding the ball. The margin for error is greatly reduced and nowhere - nowhere - in that test did I see a malignant action, aimed to hurt or injure. Some petulance, perhaps, and the All Blacks will have been given a caning by the coaching team for their discipline, but there was no sinister intent.

The danger of all this delirium (listen to the audience-gathering squeals of two Irish journalists on radio, one of them Francis, if you want a definition of hysteria...) is it persuades the game's leaders to introduce lunacy like banning tackling above the waist.

That wouldn't just change things, it would kill the game, removing the big hit, leading to porous defences which would be split by offloads and ball-carriers running almost bent double into contact. Ridiculous.

All we can do is hope rugby's elected officials can see through the hysterics and the cynics - upon whom the curse of Mary Malone should be visited if they succeed in ruining the game.