Henry match-fixing claims labelled 'nonsense'
July 30, 2012
Sir Graham Henry's decision to rake up his former side's World Cup woe has been widely criticised © Getty Images
Sir Graham Henry's suspicion that match-fixing may have been to blame for the All Blacks' exit from the 2007 Rugby World Cup have been rubbished by a referee selector for the tournament.
In his forthcoming biography, Henry reveals his outrage at referee Wayne Barnes' handling of his side's quarter-final defeat to France and details what he saw as a litany of mistakes and missed infringements. His headline-grabbing concerns also include suspicions that match-fixing was involved - a claim that has since been widely criticised throughout the rugby world.
"They are extreme. They are totally unacceptable and I refute them totally," commented Bob Francis, a New Zealander who oversaw refereeing appointments for the 2007 World Cup. "In actual fact I believe they were nonsense and I think it brings into question his judgement 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."
Francis also revealed that an independent refereeing panel that reviewed the game in question the following day had concluded that there were "some issues" including assistant referee Jonathan Kaplan's failure to spot a forward pass in the lead up to France's crucial second try and several offsides late in the game "that should have been penalised".
Francis also defended Barnes who he described as "a man of integrity". "He's a lawyer, his colleagues like him and I think he's an excellent person and I don't believe there is anything there that you could say was a question mark," he said.
Current All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen, who served as Henry's assistant at the 2007 World Cup, refused to add fuel to the flames. "Everybody knows that the referee missed a forward pass, but I don't think that cost us the game," said Hansen. "I think we did things ourselves that contributed to that loss.
"For me it's been gone. I am looking forward not backwards and it's all about the future. I've let it go and I've let it go quite a long time ago."
Ivan Haines, a member of the NZRU board from 2002 until this year, told Stuff.co.nz that he believes Henry has little to gain by raising the issue. "I don't think this will do anyone's reputation any good to be honest. I am disappointed it has been said," Haines said. "I know everyone in New Zealand was disappointed when we lost that game but we are way past that now."
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