OPINION: All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore appears to be a marked man.
Not from anyone on a rugby field, however, but from the International Rugby Board's (IRB) judiciary.
While no-one would defend Hore's indiscretion against Wales on Sunday, it appears that many in the northern hemisphere rugby fraternity have adopted a lynch-mob mentality and have already decided that he will have plenty of time for some enforced rest and recuperation.
That enforced rest was clarified early today when the veteran All Black was banned from all rugby for five weeks.
While the incident looked bad on television, the facts had to be established in a calm, objective manner. In the first minute of play Hore was on his way into one of those piles of bodies rugby variously describes as rucks, mauls or the breakdown.
Wales lock Bradley Davies was caught on the wrong side of the pile-up and as Hore went to add his not inconsiderable weight and muscle to proceedings, he decided to "clean out" Davies with the usual hard, physical contact that goes with teaching any opposition player it is not a good idea to be on the All Blacks' side of things.
That's pretty common in test rugby. Seldom does anyone get seriously hurt and it was not coincidental that none of the match officials saw anything out of the ordinary, and play continued.
After the all-important first collision was over, two Welsh players were left prostrate on the ground, clearly injured.
To a chorus of boos from the famously passionate capacity crowd at Cardiff Arms Park, the television replays clearly showed Hore's action and the baying for his blood started precisely at that moment.
Since then the clamour has not only continued, but increased. The word thuggery has also been increasingly used, and the condemnation of All Blacks rugby will reach a crescendo this week.
But as Taranaki Daily News rugby writer Glenn McLean rightly observes, Hore is no thug. McLean has watched Hore play most of his 200-plus first-class and international rugby matches, which include 64 for Taranaki. Hore now faces a hearing before an International Rugby Board judicial officer today.
That official is appointed by the Six Nations Committee, which oversees disciplinary matters in the autumn internationals in the northern hemisphere.
Make no mistake though, the biggest problem Hore is likely to face is the perceived "lenient" one-match ban handed out to All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson after his boot came into contact with the head of Scotland's Alasdair Strokosch earlier in the tour.
In the farcical procedure that followed, the IRB actually appealed the sentence, in which the original two-week suspension was halved, then restored - three weeks later.
By then, the sentence had been served, but the ominous intervention of the IRB's new chief executive, Australian Brett Gosper, who tweeted Thomson got off lightly, does not bode well for Hore.
While his reckless action means a suspension is inevitable, it is to be hoped justice, rather than the tangled web of politics that makes up northern hemisphere rugby, prevails.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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