Thomson's careless footwork may prove costly

LIAM NAPIER IN EDINBURGH
Last updated 05:00 13/11/2012
All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson sits in the sin bin after being yellowed carded for rucking the head of a Scottish forward.
Getty Images
GLUM CHUM: All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson sits in the sin bin after being yellow carded for rucking the head of a Scottish forward.

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OPINION: If Adam Thomson intended to injure opposing Scotsman Alasdair Strokosch with his bizarre and brainless boot to the head, he would have done a better job of it.

Thomson sparked a storm in a tea cup yesterday with a careless - not malicious - act that marred the All Blacks' 51-22 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield.

Irish citing commissioner Murray White is expected to demand Thomson face a judicial hearing in the coming days and, with his future in New Zealand rugby uncertain, the outcome could end the flanker's European tour, and All Blacks career.

Anything close to a three-week ban would rule Thomson out of this year's remaining tests against Italy, Wales and England.

The obvious mitigating point is that Thomson's sprigs hardly touched Strokosch's head. If you wanted to get pedantic, the argument could be made they didn't make contact with the skull at all.

Strokosch was wearing a strangely coloured headgear that Thomson may use in his defence. Maybe he was confused.

Maybe, in the modern age where television captures everything, he was just plain stupid. Whenever the head is involved you're entering dangerous territory. The video evidence isn't flattering, but Thomson is not a thug.

Anyone who has played competitive sport knows it's easy to be involved in a rash moment - before you know it there's no turning back, you're sent to the naughty chair to think about what you've done and the possible ramifications.

Look no further than Strokosch for proof that common sense should prevail and Thomson is given a fair and reasonable one-week punishment, but with rugby's farcical judicial system the result is anyone's guess.

Parallels will be drawn with Thomson and Australian flanker Scott Higginbotham, who copped a four-week, two-match ban for headbutting and kneeing All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

A case could be made that Thomson should receive less than half his suspension given this was one, not two incidents.

Strokosch is an unlikely character witness - he agrees it was not a vicious stomp, more a misdirected slipper that could prove costly.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen summed it up best when he labelled the downward boot motion a reckless, not spiteful, incident.

Strokosch has already forgiven his opposite and said post match there was no damage done because the boot "hardly grazed my head".

Scotland coach Andy Robinson felt Thomson should have been shown a red, rather than yellow, card but Strokosch didn't share those sentiments. He believed the matter should end with 10 minutes in the bin.

Where the probable hearing will take place may also be problematic with the All Blacks leaving for Rome today.

Two years ago, All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu had to travel from Edinburgh to Glasgow and back after being cited for headbutting English flanker Lewis Moody at Twickenham.

Ultimately, the Thomson saga should be kept in perspective.

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The All Blacks' third-choice blindside flanker is not, at this point, a crucial part of their long-term tour plans.

Liam Messam and Victor Vito are ahead in the pecking order and, if Thomson is suspended, Hansen could call on the services of New Zealand Maori lock/flanker Jarred Hoeata, rather than bring a new face halfway around the world.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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