‘All Blacks are replaceable in World Cup’ . . . Huh?!?

2011-10-08 19:43

IRB comes under fire from various rugby commentators for their comments and rulings

Imagine a Rugby World Cup without the All Blacks, Wallabies or Springboks!

Australian Rugby Union head, John O’Neill, warned at a press conference here in Wellington this week that the negative financial consequences of taking part in the Rugby World Cup are a “serious” matter the International Rugby Board (IRB) must tackle.

Otherwise this could become a reality.

O’Neill says the tournament could not realistically be called a World Cup if one of the SANZAR nations – South Africa, New Zealand and Australia – did not participate.

“I’m not sure you’d be calling that a World Cup. And that’s not a path we want to go down,” he said.

“The issues on the table at the moment relating to the financial consequences of participating in a World Cup, acutely felt by Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, has brought us together in a very unified way.

“It’s not frivolous, it’s a serious matter.”

O’Neill added: “We hoped to get the World Cup out of the way and in a quieter moment, sit down with the IRB and look at the timing of future World Cups, the distribution policy – how much funding the IRB distributes, particularly to the major unions, and finally the commercial rules, about what you can and can’t do during a World Cup.”

O’Neill did not repeat his New Zealand counterpart Steve Tew’s threat to boycott the 2015 World Cup in England should the financial arrangements in place by then not meet with his organisation’s approval.

“Threatening to boycott a World Cup is not our style, but equally, the notion that any team is replaceable is nonsensical.

“But everyone’s got to move with the times and I think it’s timely to have a serious look at the governance and management structures of the IRB,” he said.

The IRB has come under fire from various sectors of the rugby fraternity this week for certain comments and rulings by IRB chief executive Mike Miller.

The All Blacks would be “replaceable’’ at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, a player banned indefinitely for not attending a disciplinary hearing and another, Manu Tuilagi, who is playing for England, fined $10 000 (about R75 000) for wearing a branded mouthguard.

Comments and rulings, such as these, that emerged from the IRB did little to help the governing body win the public relations battle at rugby’s biggest showpiece.

When asked in an interview on radio if the World Cup needed the All Blacks, Miller replied: “Everyone is replaceable.’’

His statement stunned members of the All Blacks. “You can’t have a World Cup without the All Blacks, without any of the top nations.
They’ve all got to be there just to make it a legit World Cup,’’ All Blacks Richard Kahui said.

While Samoan team member Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu received little sympathy for calling a referee a “racist, biased punk’’ and making comparisons to the Holocaust on Twitter, he says he was not informed of the disciplinary hearing which resulted in him being banned from the game.

The 30-year-old centre was suspended from all rugby after he failed to turn up for a World Cup judicial hearing in Auckland over his Twitter tirade against Welsh referee Nigel Owens.

He said he did not know the IRB had called a hearing, but was non-committal about whether he would have attended.

Fuimaono-Sapolu said there was “injustice’’ being dealt out by the IRB, including refereeing that seemed to hurt Samoa unfairly.

Fuimaono-Sapolu said: “We always get bad referees, we always get the stereotype that we don’t know how to play rugby, the stereotype that we’re thugs, we’re violent, we’re stupid – we always get that.” 

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