Mocking the northern hemisphere
June 22, 2012
Momentary hope for the northern hemisphere sides - all part of the southern hemisphere plan © PA Photos
The rugby world is embroiled in a scandal so significant that the image of the game may never recover.
Details have come to light of an apparent agreement between the unions of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia to occasionally 'go easy' against northern hemisphere teams to allow the illusion of genuine competition in international rugby.
The supposed pact is alleged to have been in place since the game went professional in 1995 and the southern superpowers realised that if they consistently played to their full ability fans and sponsors would desert the game in droves as the likes of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales were repeatedly put to the sword.
If the claims turn out to be true it will mean that countless famous moments in the game's history, treasured by millions of fans, will be tarnished by the fact that games were essentially thrown by the losing side. Most of all, England's famous 2003 World Cup win will be seen as nothing but a charitable gesture from superior foes to a lesser enemy.
The allegations have been made by a former Australian player who has promised to make his identity public once he has been granted immunity by the International Rugby Board from any form of prosecution or legal action. The source has promised to name names and provide documented evidence to prove his statements.
"Think about it," said the source, who agreed to meet this publication in a quiet Sydney bar out of the public gaze. "Do you honestly believe Scotland would ever beat Australia or South Africa if we weren't going a little easy on them? Anyone who doubts the validity of my claim needs only look at the record books. Scotland have beaten the Wallabies twice in recent years. I mean, come on. If that doesn't get you thinking then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you."
"The trick is to tease the fans into the idea the contest is real," said the former player. "Take Ireland's recent loss to New Zealand in Christchurch. Dan Carter snuck over a last minute drop goal to break Irish hearts. Ireland have only managed a solitary draw in 107 years of playing New Zealand so any kid of result for Ireland, win or draw, is a bonus. In the first test the All Blacks play properly and smash the Irish. The more casual fans and sponsors aren't going to watch a three match series with that happening every game, so what the Kiwis do is go a little easy in the next game.
"I know for a fact they stayed up late last Friday playing video games and poker. They then had a big breakfast and a big lunch and even ate ice-cream on the team bus going to the stadium. It all adds up to them being a little off colour come game time. The game starts and suddenly everything is going Ireland's way and they take a ten point lead.
"What the fans don't realise is that the New Zealand players are all trying to keep their delicious ice creams in their belly and not vomit everywhere. They can only play at 60% of their potential, meaning things balance out a bit between the home and away sides. Heck, they even throw in a yellow card for Israel Dagg for good measure a few minutes before the game ends. Then, just when people think history is on the cards….BANG! Carter steps up and nails a drop kick. Well, it was quite lucky actually in this case. Carter was meant to nail the drop goal a minute before but missed.
"Luckily, it was still easy enough for the Kiwis to engineer another shot just seconds later. The point is, Ireland take some heart from the heroic defeat and everyone tunes in next time to see if Ireland can go one better this time. It's perfect."
The source says he has come forward with the truth after being plagued by depression brought on by feeling 'constantly guilty' about the ongoing deception.
"It isn't, and wasn't fair," said the ex-player. "I remember playing in a Wallaby side that lost to Ireland fairly recently. They were so happy, bless them. I'll never forget their happy little faces. Especially Ronan O'Gara's. His cheeks were so rosy and lovely. Awww, bless him. Anyway, they were clearly in ecstasy and I stood there, looking at them and thinking how it was only because we had intentionally stayed up all night eating burgers and pizza and watching Home and Away reruns that they had managed to sneak it. The Australian Rugby Union said it was time to drop a game against them to keep interest up in worldwide rugby. So we effectively let them win. But I knew it wasn't right. The truth has to come out, however much it hurts. We can't go on living a lie. My conscience won't allow it."
However, the ARU, SRFU and NZRU have all furiously denied the allegations. A spokesperson for the ARU said: "We categorically deny that our national team has ever thrown a match or gone easy on those adorable little northern nations who try and try so hard, bless them. Really, we would in no way take our foot off the gas and allow them a few easy scores.
"In fact, the very fact that we will only lose three times more to any of the Home Union teams between now and the next World Cup shows that we aren't involved in any kind of dubious result arranging practice."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The East Terrace (theeastterrace.com) offers an offside view of life in the rugby world
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup