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Aisle be Back: All Blacks v Tonga – the aftermath

  • By Kevin McCarthy

Ces Blazey would be spinning in his grave, and with Rob Muldoon spinning in contra-rotation, there’s a big step already towards a zero-carbon future. Indeed, it’s probably about the 50th anniversary of their favourite phrase of Sports and Politics Do Not Mix.

Even though they were both politicians and both would have recognised that it was all about politics. Whether keeping onside with the SARFU or keeping onside with middle New Zealand.

So, when Ian Foster stepped up to the post-match presser after the Tonga drubbing, he may have fondly hoped – indeed expressed – that no-one would zero in on the general shittiness of the whole outcome. A tier-2 nation that has never played since the World Cup, and forced to draft in club players, being lined up as cannon fodder for the All Blacks pre-season.

102-0 did no-one much good, other than to blood some new players, potentially some combinations, and sell a few tickets. With the operative word being few.

The Tongans very gamely played their game in just being able to get on the park.  Manu Samoa having politely declined to step in for the politely declining Italians (or possibly just declining) , the Tongans stepped up.

The hunt for villains of course was on. The NZRU actually stepped in with funding to make this game possible, so attempts to paint them as exploitative opportunists, riding on the back of the Tongan community in staging the game at a league stronghold, are well overwrought.

Not that the NZRU did not have a vested interest in getting up some sort of opposition for the All Blacks. And it’s only recently that some pretty token moves have been made to recognise that we have actually got a Pacific backyard that should be more than a player talent generator.

So pretty quickly the villainy gets escalated to the ultimate villain, World  Rugby. As you know, World Rugby is bald headed, lives in Dublin, and strokes a large white Persian cat. Or it might as well do.

World Rugby is a composite of course of all the playing nations although some have much more voting power than others. So, as you try to unpick all the reasons that hamstrung tier-2s like Tonga, such as clubs refusing to release players, and the lack of a coherent world season, and the cruel eligibility rules, just think of those unions with the voting power.

So seriously, if things are to change, then the voting power needs to be one country, one vote. Which is going to happen, well, never. Unless the politicians can reform themselves, then all the rest is pious handwringing.

+++++

I fear the British and Irish Lions tour is running the risk of killing off the mighty concept.

The tour is already bedevilled by ongoing Covid-19 clusters, and presumably the tests will have to be played  before no audiences.

With no travelling army of supporters, this is going to be a very weird beast, if in fact the tests ever get played.

The tour should never have gone ahead in a country where Covid remains out of control. Presumably, there were commercial imperatives and a desperation for the Boks to get back on the park at last, but this is turning into a disaster.

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