The Islamic State of World Rugby

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A guest post from sports writer Marcus Rattsusan

Like most viewers of Saturday’s big game against the Lions, I watched with fear and trepidation. But I wasn’t remotely surprised that we lost, or about the manner of our defeat. I have been saying for years that New Zealand rugby has lost its way, and that one day we would reach this moment: the moment where we actually lost a game.

The All Blacks were pressured into mistakes by their opponents, who found our players lacking in mental fortitude. The scoreline may have been close, but that was only because New Zealand were made to look good by an incompetent referee who should have red-carded at least seven other All Black players to make up for the cowardly and criminal spear tackle on Brian O’Driscoll back in 2005, and for various other acts of All Black thuggery that have gone unpunished over the years, and that’s without even considering Andy Haden’s disgraceful dive. Had the referee applied the law properly and not been so overawed by the occasion and intimidated by the team wearing black, the result could have been a thrashing. A thrashing that would have been well-deserved, given the way our players conducted themselves.

Let’s get something clear: this is not a great All Blacks team. Far from it. Saturday’s performance was more Keystone Cops than clinical, and the buck needs to stop with the team’s coach and management.

Steve Hansen should have been sacked long before the Wellington debacle. He has a fantastic winning record, including one World Cup as head coach, another as assistant coach, and numerous other trophies. But as anyone who follows sport knows, you are only as good as your last game. On that measurement alone Hansen is a failure with a 100% losing record. He needs to be sacked immediately, right now, before Saturday’s game, and replaced with Warren Gatland. Gatland is a coach of such quality that he would have no trouble handling both teams this weekend. On the subject of Warren Gatland, readers may recall that I used last week’s column as an opportunity to denounce the Lions coach as a clown and buffoon who is to rugby coaching what Eddie the Eagle is to ski jumping. But I was being ironic, obviously.

While we’re on the subject of dismissing people, let’s dump Kieran Read as captain, fire the entire board of the New Zealand Rugby Union, and sack anyone else associated in any way with the Wellington defeat. That includes the driver of the team bus, just to be on the safe side.

And as for Sonny Bill Williams, the public long ago tired of this preening show-pony, whose contempt for his own team’s achievements saw him give away his 2015 World Cup winners medal to a mere child! Perhaps SBW thinks we are children too. Maybe he reckons on our continuing to stroke his massive ego so long as he posts an occasional picture of his smiling family on Instagram. How else to explain his antics?

And now this. This! This brutal and premeditated assault by Williams on the head of an opponent. Sonny Bill should be thrown in prison for what he did. Give him three strikes, throw away the key and never let him see the light of day again. If you had a dog as rabid as Williams was in Wellington, you would shoot it.

Williams’s punishment for trying to kill another player was a four-week holiday. Thanks for all your work, Sonny Bill! Now put your feet up and relax for a month. What a joke! One wonders what he would have got if he’d managed to kill Anthony Watson. A performance bonus, perhaps?

It’s not just Williams, though. There is a rotten culture in this team, and I’ve seen it gradually build. I have been following our national team for years, but in recent years I have felt more like a crime reporter than a sports journalist.

The All Blacks play a fast and aggressive style of rugby, but it is also brutal and people are getting hurt. Sooner or later someone is going to get killed, but try telling that to the All Blacks. Their response to Saturday’s defeat has been to call for an increase in levels of aggression, which brings into focus a very alarming thing: maiming others is a deliberate tactic designed to help the All Blacks achieve their goals. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it could be because it’s also what terrorists do. I don’t think it’s any exaggeration at all to call the All Blacks the Islamic State of world rugby.

You can see it in their style of play: brutal, thuggish and without concern for any standards of fair play or human decency. Players launch themselves at their enemies without regard for their own wellbeing, like a suicide bomber entering a crowded café. Sure, the All Blacks have been around a lot longer than Islamic State, but I can’t help but suspect that the terror group might have a secret admiration for the way the New Zealand team play the game. For all we know our boys could be the inspiration behind ISIS’s infamous black flag.

Someone in the New Zealand Rugby Union needs to investigate the links between the All Blacks and Islamic State. But don’t hold your breath waiting for urgent action on any front from that gutless bunch of hypocrites. All they care about is coin and how to get it.

We’ve all heard the mantra ‘better people make better All Blacks”, but I always thought of that phrase as just another example of the sort of wearisome management-guru psychobabble that infects professional sport these days. But now I’m not so sure. If better people ready do make better All Blacks, then it explains why we lost on Saturday.