All Blacks coach Graham Henry was so stunned by the lopsided penalty count in the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-final loss to France he urged the New Zealand Rugby Union to call for an investigation into referee Wayne Barnes' performance.
In his biography, 'Graham Henry Final Word', by veteran author Bob Howitt, Henry reveals he briefly contemplated match-fixing as the only logical explanation for the All Blacks' upset 20-18 loss.
He analysed the game on video for his report to the rugby union and found Barnes had awarded only two penalties to New Zealand during the game.
His gut feeling, according to his biography, was that the video "would confirm that referee Wayne Barnes and his touch judges, Jonathan Kaplan from South Africa and Tony Spreadbury from England, hadn't exactly covered themselves in glory at the Millennium Stadium, that they had missed an obvious forward pass when France scored its match-winning try - a pass so forward everyone in the stadium had witnessed it except the referee - and that Barnes had been pretty lenient on the French at the breakdowns, probably costing the All Blacks the game".
His analysis was that France deserved to be penalised up to 40 times.
The video had three different angles and featured statistical breakdowns of lineouts, scrums, penalties, tackle counts, territory and possession. On those statistics, the All Blacks dominated. They had an overwhelming 73 per cent territorial advantage, winning 166 rucks to France's 42 and making only 73 tackles compared with France's 331.
A mind-boggled Henry was so stunned by his findings he told the rugby union it should "pressure the International Rugby Board to institute an inquiry".
He also said it was ''incomprehensible'' the IRB did not have strategies in place to investigate bizarre matches.
Howitt writes: "He knew if a comparable situation had occurred in other sports, it would be investigated. But there existed a blissful purity about rugby, or at least that's how everyone wanted to perceive it. It wasn't politically correct to even suggest the match officials might have favoured one team."
The rugby union chose not to push for an investigation.
Elsewhere in the book, it's revealed All Blacks captain Richie McCaw disobeyed instructions from the coaches' box during the last 30 minutes of the 8-7 Rugby World Cup triumph against France at Eden Park last year.
Henry demanded the All Blacks play for position and kick the ball deep into French territory late in the nail-biting final.
But McCaw, fearing a match-winning French counter-attack, chose to defend the game in the middle of the park, backing his players not to give away penalties.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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