With great dominance comes great scrutiny.

The All Blacks have learned to accept that, and now gain life and energy off the opprobrium of opponents.

Now, they're so dominant, teams just want excuses.

Once again, the "special treatment" debate has resurfaced. As if to explain why the All Blacks are as good as they are.


Case and point being Owen Franks, who has dominated the media for the past week. His alleged eye gouge quickly dismissed by Sanzaar despite many believing a case should have been brought forward. Whether or not you believe that, others have been a lot more critical calling this a common occurrence throughout recent All Blacks history.

However, a quick look at the stats shows the boys in black are far from favoured.

Since Steve Hansen took over the All Blacks in 2012 they've played 59 tests. 2012 was also the last time they received a suspension courtesy of Andrew Hore.

In those 59 tests, they have been penalised 47 more times than their opponents, the count being 616 to 569.

Similarly, they received the most yellow cards, 28 to 22.

On 35 of the 59 games played, the All Blacks have had an equal or higher penalty count.

This tells two very different stories.

One is the aforementioned myth, now debunked, that the All Blacks get favoured by referees. The other, which lends itself to the high penalty count, is the notion that the All Blacks are a "dirty" team.


In regards to the former, you could still argue the referees "let more go" when it comes to the All Blacks, but the argument is about favouritism. Considering, on average, there are between 15 to 20 penalties in a rugby match, the All Blacks have averaged 10.44 to their opponents 9.44. The point here is that even if the All Blacks are doing more, they are still being penalised more.

For the latter, the suspension argument comes into play.

Looking at the All Blacks biggest competitors since 2012, here's how the suspension count looks.

Argentina - 3, Australia - 2, England - 0, France - 1, Ireland - 3, South Africa - 2.

This doesn't include suspensions off the field, or suspensions handed out at Super Rugby or club level.

So it's true, the All Blacks get suspended less than their rivals.

However, head back to the yellow cards.

Of all the yellow cards the All Blacks have received since 2012, only two have come from "foul play." One was Adam Thomson in 2012 when he rucked the head of a Scottish player. The other was Ben Franks in 2014 for a swinging arm.

Contrast that to the All Blacks rivals, who have less yellow cards but more suspensions. Of their cards, four have come from "foul play". They include punches, elbows to the face, and head butts. Coupled with that, only one of the suspensions mentioned above came from an All Blacks game.

Maybe the All Blacks just get away with a lot. Sure, they get penalised a tonne and get punished with the cards, but maybe it's the out-of-sight infringements that have people spewing.

Franks' eye gouge is a classic example. Not picked up on the night, but lambasted afterwards.

In any case, it's not accurate to say the All Blacks get special treatment simply because of one incident. Let's not forget Australia's David Pocock got off the hook during last year's World Cup for kneeing an opponent. An infringement which usually carries a four to 12 week ban.

The reality is, teams do just as much as the All Blacks to test the boundaries, they just don't win as many games.