Henry's comments are a 'disgrace'

Mon, 30 Jul 2012 13:21
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Former All Black coach Graham Henry is facing widespread criticism after making claims of match fixing in an authorised biography.

Former All Black coach Graham Henry is facing widespread criticism after revealing in an authorised biography he suspected match fixing might have played a part in his team's shock loss to France in a 2007 World Cup quarterfinal.

New Zealander Bob Francis, who appointed England's Wayne Barnes to referee the match at Cardiff, won 20-18 by France, was among those on Monday who took issue with Henry's comments.

Francis, at the time an International Rugby Board referee selector, said: "The suggestion of match fixing is a disgrace."

He added Henry's comments had damaged his credibility and reputation.

"They are extreme," said Francis, adding: "They are totally unacceptable and I refute them totally.

"In actual fact I believe they were nonsense and I think it brings into question his judgment at that time."

Talking to the Radio Sport, Francis insisted that Henry's own decision-making was just as pivotal in the final result.

"He needs to look at himself rather than switch the blame... the team played poorly that day. I think there were some refereeing decision that were questionable.

"But if you go back through the whole lead-up from 12 months out from that World Cup, there were a lot of mistakes made in the way they were conditioned and prepared. The chickens came home to roost that day."

In his book, he tells how he "contemplated match-fixing as the only logical explanation" for the upset 20-18 loss to France in the 2007 World Cup quarterfinals.

Henry, who stepped down as All Blacks coach after guiding the team to win the 2011 World Cup, said he was stunned by the lopsided penalty count which heavily favoured France.

He analysed video of the game and in a report to the New Zealand Rugby Union he urged it to "pressure the International Rugby Board to institute an inquiry".

According to the biography, he believed the video "would confirm that referee Wayne Barnes and his touch judges, Jonathan Kaplan from South Africa and Tony Spreadbury from England, hadn't exactly covered themselves in glory at the Millennium Stadium, that they had missed an obvious forward pass when France scored its match-winning try - a pass so forward everyone in the stadium had witnessed it except the referee - and that Barnes had been pretty lenient on the French at the breakdowns, probably costing the All Blacks the game".

The video contained statistical breakdowns that showed the All Blacks had an overwhelming 73 per cent territorial advantage, won 166 rucks to 42 and made only 73 tackles compared with France's 331.

The NZRU chose not to seek an investigation and Henry felt it was "incomprehensible" the International Rugby Board did not have strategies in place to investigate bizarre matches.

Biography author and veteran New Zealand rugby writer Bob Howitt wrote: "He knew if a comparable situation had occurred in other sports, it would be investigated.

"But there existed a blissful purity about rugby, or at least that's how everyone wanted to perceive it. It wasn't politically correct to even suggest the match officials might have favoured one team."

The All Blacks had been hot favourites to go through and win the tournament, and Henry told Radio Sport that something didn't feel right about the shock loss to France.

"I've been involved in 140 test matches and 20 years of coaching at provincial level or the level above and 12 years of coaching international rugby and I've never been involved in a game that was like this game," he said.

AP & AFP

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