Graham Henry's ref comments raise eyebrows
A former New Zealand Rugby Union board member has expressed disappointment Graham Henry has courted controversy by stating he briefly suspected match-fixing following the 2007 World Cup quarterfinal loss to France.
Ivan Haines, a member of the NZRU board from 2002 until he stood down at this year's annual meeting, believes Henry has little to gain by raking over the shoddy performance of referee Wayne Barnes during that shocking defeat.
“I don't think this will do anyone's reputation any good to be honest. I am disappointed it has been said," Haines said. “I know everyone in New Zealand was disappointed when we lost that game but we are way past that now."
In his autobiography, Graham Henry: Final Word, Henry says he was so staggered by Barnes' display after analysing it play-by-play he initially wondered whether sports betting was a factor.
Although he soon dismissed the notion, Henry told the NZRU they should pressure the International Rugby Board to launch an inquiry into the officials' performance.
Haines, however, says he cannot recollect Henry asking the board to instigate this request and said any accusations of match-fixing were new to him.
“I honestly can't remember if there was ever an allegation as such. There was no board paper, put it that way."
By Henry's reckoning, Barnes missed 40 penalties in total during the 20-18 defeat, neither of the French tries should have been allowed and they were allowed to blatantly infringe without being penalised literally and figuratively.
Having guided the All Blacks to victory in last year's World Cup final over France, Henry, currently in Buenos Aires assisting with the coaching of Argentina, could have eased into semi-retirement without hassle.
The reference to match-fixing may jeopardise that, especially if the northern hemisphere media accuse him of being a poor loser.
Haines believed Henry would have been better to forget the pain of the 2007 failure and instead bask in last year's achievements.
“We have won the World Cup at the best possible time we could win it. Let's enjoy it, carry on and win the next one. I'm surprised that it [match-fixing] has come out.
“And I think if anyone took it really seriously they [the IRB] would have looked at it. Referees referee both sides . . . At the end of the day, if they [All Blacks] were good enough to win it, they would have won it."
Bob Howitt, who penned the book, said everything in the tome had been approved by Henry.
“It is also very important that people keep this in the context it was written. It must also be remembered that he [Henry] also goes on to say another reason the All Blacks lost that day was because they didn't play up to scratch.
“I hope people don't go thinking the solitary reason the All Blacks lost was because the referee gave a terrible performance that day. It was just Graham was so blown away.
Howitt also noted Henry's views about Barnes in the book were largely backed by the NZRU's high-performance coach Colin Hawke, who identified 16 occasions when Barnes was remiss in not awarding penalties to the All Blacks.
The book, Howitt added, had been scrutinised by lawyers.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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