In a battle between blue and black it has been red and yellow who have had the biggest voice.

The yellow card of French lock Paul Gabrillagues in the first test and the subsequent red shown to fullback Benjamin Fall on Saturday night have marred what could have been a great New Zealand-France series.

What we have had instead is an already outmatched France side hampered by one blatantly wrong call and another one that could be judged a bit harsh.

Gabrillagues' "high" tackle was barely a penalty and was even more preposterous given Sam Cane and Ofa Tu'ungafasi's hits later in the outing.


Fall's red, though, is an interesting one. He got a challenge for the high ball with Beauden Barrett very wrong which resulted in Barrett landing dangerously and inevitably failing a head injury assessment.

By the letter of the law, Angus Gardner did the correct thing by sending him for an early shower, but the incident brought about the idea of intent.

Intent is used to judge multiple calls in rugby. The offside play at the ball by replacement British and Irish Lions hooker Ken Owen in the final Lions Series test was changed to an accidental offside because he didn't "intend" to catch the ball.

Bad high tackles are downgraded if the player didn't mean to get it that wrong.

If you look at the replay, Fall's gaze never left the ball. He actually got bumped in his pursuit to the take off zone by Anton Lienert-Brown which negated his ability to get a good jump in.

The ref made his call and both sides have to live with it within the confines of the game but both parties (France and New Zealand) criticising the decision to handicap the French for nearly 65 minutes.

That's not to say France would have won, but the spirit they showed on defence and particularly through their loose forwards would have definitely been aided by a fullback covering the raking kicks of Jordie Barrett and Damian McKenzie.

There needs to be a discussion surrounding intent. It either needs to be used in every instance of a high or dangerous tackle or never used and instead seeing the incident in black and white.


Doing that takes away from the momentum and game feel of a fixture but may clean up problem areas.

An idea that has appeared in the egg splatter of Barrett's great fall is to remove the in-air contest altogether.

In this instance, only the receiving team could go up in the air to take the ball. This change would punish the wrong people. If you can't go up and contest, the high kicking game would completely disappear.

There still needs to be that contest.


Damian McKenzie's 60 minute stint at first five (and halfback, briefly) would have done the electrifying talent a world of good.

His game management left a bit to be desired but like a learner driver, time behind the wheel is the best way to develop the requisite skills.

All Blacks replacement back Damian McKenzie has impressed and gained valuable game time during the French series. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Blacks replacement back Damian McKenzie has impressed and gained valuable game time during the French series. Photo / Brett Phibbs

McKenzie's skillset currently fits that of a super sub a la 2015-16 Beauden Barrett. The ability to play across the backline bar the midfield gives the All Blacks coaches more flexibility with their lineups and his lightning speed tears apart tiring sides.

His performance in the first test can attest to that.

Having both him and Jordie Barrett in the lineup has been a good eye to the future though the utilisation of Ben Smith on the right wing is as perplexing as it is frustrating.

Smith is the best fullback in world rugby. His organisational skills have been missed as while Jordie Barrett can run the ball better than most at the back with his size and surprising speed, he hasn't developed that part of his game.

With the overflowing talent that can come onto the right wing - think Waisake Naholo and Nehe Milner-Skudder - Smith should be relocated back to where he plays best.