OPINION: All Black hooker Andrew Hore will miss five games for a reckless act that left Welsh lock Bradley Davies hospitalised with serious concussion. It remains to be seen whether Davies, who was knocked out cold when Hore smashed him from behind, will ever be able to take the field again.
Playing against the world-conquering All Blacks in front of a capacity crowd at Cardiff's magnificent Millennium Stadium should have been one of the most memorable moments of Davies' career. Instead, he was on the field for less than a minute before he was king-hit by Hore.
He cannot remember anything about that day, nor the two days before it, and he must pass strict tests to ensure he has not suffered permanent damage before he can play again. His revelation last week that he has been "knocked out loads of times" raises questions about the wisdom of him ever returning to the game at all.
Hore, on the other hand, got off extremely lightly. There has been justified criticism of the sentence handed to him by International Rugby Board judicial officer Lorne Crerar. Although Crerar ruled that Hore deserved the maximum eight-week ban, it was reduced to five because of his exemplary record and genuine remorse.
It is not a particularly harsh sentence. Although Hore will miss tomorrow's final test of the year against England, the other matches he will be forced to watch from the sidelines are three pre-season Super 15 hit-outs he was unlikely to play in anyway and the opening game of next year's Super Rugby tournament.
A more sensible sanction would have been to ban Hore for five tests, meaning his punishment would extend into next year's international season. Test match bans, rather than any game counting for suspensions, should be standard for all cases of dangerous play, especially when a player's head is targeted. The IRB needs to make it so.
To his credit, Hore has apologised for his actions and shown genuine remorse. He texted and phoned Davies daily while he was in hospital recovering, and Davies accepts the injury was accidentally inflicted.
However, whether or not Hore intended to connect with Davies' jaw is immaterial. Swinging his arm as he did was an inexcusably reckless act, and he must have realised the potential for serious consequences. It was only through sheer luck that the damage inflicted on Davies was not worse.
The incident and Adam Thomson's stomping on the head of Scottish player Alasdair Strokosch in the first match of the tour have tarnished the reputations of the culprits and the All Blacks brand.
If all goes according to plan, the All Blacks will tomorrow add England to the list of scalps they have collected in what has been an outstanding year. Barring a major upset at Twickenham, the side will finish 2012 undefeated - the first time they have gone through a calendar year without being beaten since 1997.
Sadly, British rugby fans will remember the tour not for the visitors' granite defence or near-supernatural ability to create blistering attacks from any situation, but for two far less salutary incidents. Who can blame them?
- The Dominion Post