Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Diplomatic immunity Kiwi style?

The citing hearing of Andrew Hore was met by many rugby fans with a cynical view due to an air of leniency surrounding the All Blacks. Sadly this cynical view became all to apparently true as his eight week ban for striking Bradley Davis from behind was reduced to five.

Hore originally was hit with the top end punishment for the cowardly crime of striking Davis, who was totally unaware of what was going on. The reduced ban was then handed out with three weeks deducted due to his- acceptance of guilt, genuine remorse, exemplary discipline record and his conduct during the hearing. There was also the fact of his daily contact with Davis taken into account.

The judicial official said "The act of foul play was inherently dangerous, being a deliberately swinging of the delivered with significant force, causing serious injury to victim who was unsighted." This was confusingly followed up by stating "the player had not intended to make contact with the players head". There is six inches difference in height with the two players so the question is- why was his hand near his head if there was no intention to strike him?

A five week ban would not be too dismissive if not for the menial matches that will be missed. Obviously the square up against England will be missed but the they go into closed season so the ban will follow onto the next domestic season. With this in mind Hore will also miss the three pre-season friendlies, so technically a meaningless ban, equating to a one match exclusion, being the England fixture. Ian Foster (New Zealand assistant coach), Hore and his legal representative stated the pre-season significances and meaningful consequences for the player in accordance with IRB regulation 17. So once again a NZ get out clause meaning they seem to be immune of a serious punishment.

So why is it we believe the All Blacks are deemed to be treated like almost untouchable gods? It is evident their playing prowess is spectacular when in full flow, yet creeping into their game seems to go past the normal brute force more to borderline thuggery. Before the Hore case the talk was of kiwi Thompson who originally received a two week suspension for raking his boot over Alasdair Stokosh's head, to see it reduced to only a week. Again that phrase they love to use was called into force 'exemplary discipline record' and there was the reduction in his punishment. Another example takes us back a few years to Keven Mealamu headbutted Lewis Moody, thus being administered with a four week ban. Mealamu and the All Blacks opted to challenge claiming he was 'clearing out a ruck'! This proceeded to a halving of the sentence to being only 2 weeks.

Earlier this season Gloucester flanker Andy Hazell unleashed a wrath of fury upon Mont-de-Marsan replacement prop Sebastien Ormaechea after he alleging he was gouging. Hazell was instantly red carded and pulled up in front of the citing committee. The punishment for Hazell was not just judged on the punches thrown but the intent by using his knee to land a blow to the head. Andy Hazell received an initial 18 week suspension reduced to 16, half a season out for punishment is a lengthy stint and a bit more of a justified ban.

Citing commissions are very sporadic on their decisions and seem very easily swayed and vote in favour of the player. A prime example of this can be shown through the Manu Tuilagi punch on Chris Ashton. The maximum ban Tuilugi could of faced from splitting Aston's eye was 52 weeks, but only received 10. There was further dispensation for Tuilagi due to his age, inexperience and those wonderful expressions 'remorse' and 'guilt'! So Tuilagi's 10 week suspension was reduced to a 5 week ban, with this calculating punishment it meant Tuilagi was free to travel to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup.

The viewing figures for these matches are in the millions, so these infringements are their for everyone to see. With the consequences been brushed to one side with lenient punishments what lesson is delivering to our children the future of the game. If anybody was to carry out any of these actions off of the field they'd be punished with a criminal record. With such large viewing figures surrounding rugby now children look up to players as if they are gods, but let's not actually give them that status or they'll become footballers.

A concern for me is the vast difference between amateur and professional standards in the punishments. For evidence of this look no further than a fixture between Keynsham RFC and Oldfield Old Boys RFC where a brawl broke out. During this scuffle a Keynsham player Jack Weston ran in and unleashed two blows to an Oldfield player Ben Staunton's jaw. Weston was awarded with a red card and Staunton received a yellow for his part in the fracas. An inspection of Staunton's and deemed to be OK so played on after his 10 minutes in the bin, later in hospital its was discovered his jaw was broken. The difference now becomes apparent between the amateur game and professional, as Jack Weston was arrested for the punches, following his arrest Weston was then sentenced for six months imprisonment. On sentencing the judge said 'It's important people realise the consequences of their violent actions'.

The punishments seem so inconsistent and almost indicate a professional player is borderline immunity for their actions, yes its a physical and powerful game but administer punishments that will deter and make players think more of their actions.

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