Should Graham Henry have criticised the refereeing of the '07 quarterfinal loss in his book?
Former IRB referee selector Bob Francis, the man responsible for appointing Englishman referee Wayne Barnes to the All Blacks' ill-fated 2007 World Cup quarterfinal, has slammed Sir Graham Henry's claims his side were cheated by match officials.
Henry makes the claims in his latest book released this week and has backed them up on TV and radio interviews.
Henry clearly believes, after repeatedly reviewing the loss to France, that things weren't right with many calls during the match by Barnes and his assistant referees, noting the lopsided penalty count and the forward pass that gave France a key try.
On the Sunday TV show used to promote the book launch, Henry said the All Blacks were "sawn off" by the match officials, adding to similar sentiment in the book.
New Zealander Francis, who was on the panel deciding which referees controlled matches during the tournament, was aghast at Henry today.
"They are extreme. They are totally unacceptable and I refute them totally," he told Radio Sport when asked about Henry's claims.
"I believe they are nonsense and I believe it brings into question his judgement at the time.
"He needs to look at himself rather than switch the blame ... the team played poorly that day.
"There were some refereeing decisions that were questionable. But going back 12 months before that World Cup there were a lot of mistakes made (by the All Blacks) with the way the team were prepared and I think the chicken came home to roost that day. I think he is deflecting away from the way the team played.
"I think it brings into question his credibility when he talks like that. I think the suggestion of match-fixing is a disgrace. There is no evidence around that."
Francis predicted the reaction in the rugby world would be negative to Henry.
"It's a real shame. Graham Henry has finished his career on an incredibly high note .. he was knighted and gained the accolades he deserves for a magnificent career.
"But I think he has done some major damage to his own reputation through this. I think he will be ridiculed in many parts of the world and I think that's a shame."
Francis said an independent refereeing panel reviewed the game on panel in Paris the next day and conceded there were "some issues". Assistant referee Jonathan Kaplan had clearly missed the forward pass and there were offsides late in the game "that should have been penalised".
"But this is most unfortunate ... that five years on this sort of level of claims that are being made is disgraceful really," Francis said.
Francis, who was involved in bringing Barnes on to the international panel, described the Englishman 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," Francis said.
Francis noted that Barnes had refereed the All Blacks against Italy earlier in the tournament and there had been "very good feedback" from the All Blacks coaches.
Even though he wasn't one of the most experienced referees at the tournament, he was a form referee and that's what convinced us to appoint him (to the quarter-final)."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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