The whinging Irish deserve our gratitude, for cementing a new rivalry which has sprung up unexpectedly in a changing international rugby landscape.

Forget the Springboks - South Africans are certainly trying to. The All Blacks versus Ireland is now among the hottest tickets in our sport. Until the fabulous Irish victory in Chicago, it was an afterthought with the odd interesting interlude such as Dublin, 2013.

Dublin 2016 completed the trifecta, of three smashing contests which have made Ireland a major rugby stopover just as South Africa dissects itself but not in a good way. And as much as anything, the Irish press reaction revealed a country no longer prepared to regard defeat against the All Blacks as the natural order of things. Excellent.

Sport needs more than what happens on the field, and Ireland's passionate pens have done the trick with an over wrought reaction to defeat at Aviva Stadium centred around Sam Cane's tackle on the unfortunate Robbie Henshaw.


Our rugby rivalries have dined out on such fare: the Deans no-try against Wales, England's supposed arrogance, the natural trans-Tasman stoush, and too many grievances against South Africa - particularly their referees of old - to mention.
Ireland have joined the fray, thanks to a bout of wild parochialism.

What was clearly an accidental head clash between Cane and Henshaw was turned into Bloody Saturday by some bloody stupid analysis. We're all guilty of that at times, and all that stomping of feet has left an impression to serve the rivalry very well indeed.

Cane was rightly cleared of wrong doing heaped at his door by some in the press. The disciplinary committee, of two Englishmen and a Welshman, have prevented this turning into a stupid joke involving Henshaw as the faux punchline. This committee is to be congratulated, for remaining un-moved by a lot of misdirected angst.

Not only was Cane incorrectly portrayed as a man on an illegal mission, but the referral of 11 other incidents to the All Blacks was kindly forwarded to the press by Ireland's manager Mick Kearney as a form of inferred guilt by mis-use of numbers. To be clear, the Irish players and coach Joe Schmidt did not indulge, but Kearney certainly did.

There was no action taken on these 11 unidentified incidents, yet Kearney conveniently placed stress on Ireland being "cleared of any foul play" for the one incident, a clean out of Cane, referred to them.

"It is disappointing to be honest. There were a number of tackles and bangs around the head," Kearney said, in that time honoured yet disingenuous way of getting a dig in while appearing to be concerned for the overall welfare of a sport.
"I don't think we are whinging at all," he continued. "I think the facts speak for themselves. We don't cite anybody."

Yes, you are whinging in a passive-aggressive way. And here are the facts.
As the foul play conviction score eventually finished, it was New Zealand 1, Ireland 0 which is hardly a landslide. And we all knew Malakai Fekitoa was guilty of a ridiculous and loose high tackle on Simon Zebo. Fekitoa even put his hand up.

Protecting the head remains a massive issue for rugby though, and radical measures are being considered. They need to be, because concussion is an extremely serious topic, and one not to be dealt with by knee-jerk reactions in the name of appearing patriotic.


In 10 years time, clashes such as the sickening blow Henshaw received will be looked at differently. You can rest assured of that. But to castigate Cane in the current age was a venture into la-la land.

As for Fekitoa, he could have been suspended for a lot longer than a week on the grounds of rank stupidity. He doesn't yet display a head for the pressure of test match football.
David Kidwell must be sacked as the Kiwis coach, before the disaster of this Four Nations campaign turns into a World Cup catastrophe. If it was okay to replace coach Steve Kearney this close to a major tournament, it is fine to blade Kidwell a year out from the World Cup.

Ivan Cleary is the obvious man to approach, and there is simply no doubt that he would do a better job than Kidwell, whose team plummeted to new depths by drawing with a team claiming to represent Scotland. The Kiwis' performance in the final against Australia was awful. The initial win over England wasn't a bad effort, but it was lucky.

It is inconceivable for New Zealand to entrust the World Cup campaign to Kidwell after observing what has just occurred. The former Kiwi forward may turn out to be one of those characters best suited to assistant coaching roles.

League is a game which doesn't necessarily need long campaigns under one coach to build combinations. The "late" appointment of someone like Cleary over Kidwell for the World Cup is far more likely to bring success. Emergency action is required, to prevent an embarrassment on our doorstep.