In Depth

Do the All Blacks cheat? Debate rages after Ireland battle

New Zealand's Sam Cane and Malakai Fekitoa face disciplinary hearings for 'allegedly dangerous tackles'

New Zealand's dramatic win over Ireland on Saturday has precipitated a debate over the way the All Blacks play rugby.

Although the world champions ran out 21-9 winners in a titanic encounter in Dublin, they picked up two yellow cards and two players have been cited in the aftermath of the match.

Sam Cane and Malakai Fekitoa will face disciplinary hearings this week for "allegedly dangerous tackles".              

Fekitoa, who scored two tries, was yellow-carded for his tackle on Simon Zebo in the second half, while Cane escaped with a penalty after a first-half hit saw Ireland's Robbie Henshaw carried off in a neck brace.

There was also criticism of the officials, who have been accused of failing to keep a lid on the game and also awarded two tries to the All Blacks that appeared questionable. 

Beauden Barrett was awarded the first by the television match official, although it seemed unclear if the ball had been grounded, and despite Irish claims of a forward pass, referee Jaco Peyper did not ask for video replays before allowing the All Blacks's third try.

Few disagree that New Zealand deserved to win, avenging their shock defeat in Chicago two weeks earlier, but their approach has left some questioning their approach. 

"Everyone knew that New Zealand were going to bring an extra level of aggression and intensity, but some of the things that we saw on Saturday were right on the line of legality," says former Irish international Alan Quinlan in the Belfast Telegraph. "Some of the incidents on Saturday should have raised the question about which colour card was merited and not whether it was a card or not.

"This isn't about whether we should have won or not. This is about player welfare and it is a genuine concern."

Quinlan argues Peyper failed in his duty of care by not coming down hard on players from both sides and that by not stamping out the aggression, he allowed it to escalate. 

Jeremy Guscott of the BBC says: "World champions New Zealand play everything at an incredible intensity. They understand the laws of the game, where the boundaries are and how the referee might react. They use it to their advantage.

"I'm not one who thinks their players go out there to hurt anyone illegally, they are sportsmen and do their best. There is ferocity in everything they do and they take everything to the limit, but it is up to the referee to be better at seeing and penalising them."

The reaction south of the equator has been one of bemusement, however.

"It's a strange old business that the All Blacks can play 10 tests in the Southern Hemisphere without a peep in regard to their conduct and three games in the North and they are effectively branded thugs," says Gregor Paul of the New Zealand Herald.

"The All Blacks, whatever is said, implied or alluded to in the next few weeks, are not a dirty rugby team - in the Southern Hemisphere...  They come North and the penalty counts go against them. They come North and incidents that perhaps wouldn't cause much kerfuffle in the South, have everyone in Europe raging."

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