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Aussies Not Swallowing The Campbell Spin ?

27th June 2005 By Munster Rugby

Aussies Not Swallowing The Campbell Spin ?

Woodward, probably on advice from Alistair Campbell, alleged Umaga & Mealamu spear-tackled Brian O’Driscoll. Thirteen television cameras failed to give any evidence to support the allegation.

Woodward, probably on advice from Alistair Campbell, alleged Umaga & Mealamu spear-tackled Brian O’Driscoll. Thirteen television cameras failed to give any evidence to support the allegation. – says Spiro Zavos.

The performance of the much-vaunted British and Irish Lions in Christchurch on Saturday night against the All Blacks was as banal and incompetent as the Lions anthem (“Now the day has come, we are one/Standing tall for our Lions call”).

This, according to Clive Woodward, was the “best-prepared Lions team ever” and, in the driving rain of Jade Stadium, things looked promising in the opening minutes when the ball was moved with some quick inter-passing. But Jerry Collins, an eliminator, like George Smith, with his spot tackles, came in on an angle from the outside and smashed Jonny Wilkinson just as he was receiving the ball. After this the Lions did not show any great eagerness to get the ball in their hands and run at the defence.

Throughout this tour there has been a consistent attack on the quality of southern hemisphere rugby from the rugby writers of The Sunday Times (UK), particularly. Their carping and rather stupid argument is that Super 12 rugby is an airy-fairy, candy floss game, a magnified Sevens, where the forwards do not scrum, ruck or compete in the lineout legally. And where the tackling is weak and the defensive screens leak tries. Try telling that to Wilkinson or Brian O’Driscoll.

Woodward, probably on advice from Tony Blair’s spinmeister with the Lions, Alistair Campbell, has alleged that Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu spear-tackled O’Driscoll with the malicious intent of injuring him. Thirteen television cameras failed to give any evidence to support the allegation. On the radio commentary you can hear the touch judge, Australian Andrew Cole, who was standing a metre or so away from the incident, telling the excellent French referee Joel Jutge that O’Driscoll was injured in a tackle. He made no reference to a spear tackle.

While Woodward/Campbell were raising the “spear tackle” allegation and condemning the South African citing commissioner, Willem Venter, for not even looking at the evidence prepared by Richard Smith, the Lions’ on-tour lawyer, Danny Grewcock was being found guilty of biting Mealamu by the Australian judicial commissioner, Terry Willis, and put out of rugby for two months.

The front-page rugby story in the New Zealand newspapers on Monday, though, was all about the Umaga/Mealamu tackle. At the bottom was a brief reference to Grewcock (correctly) being booted out of the tour for biting.

The Lions have come back from losing the first Test of a series before. In 1989 they were easily defeated by the Wallabies in the first Test before turning on the biff to strong-arm their way to victory at Sydney. The then rugby columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, Evan Whitton, described the victory with a memorable line: “The scum also rises.” It was a different story in 2001, however; Graham Henry’s side lost the last two Tests, even though at half-time in the second Test they led the Wallabies 11-6.

With the scrutiny from touch judges and citing commissioners so intense these days, it is unlikely any team will attempt to play in the brutish manner of the 1989 Lions again.

By 2001, the Wallabies had the benefit of five years of Super 12 rugby behind them to give them the confidence to play hard, enterprising rugby based on the fundamentals of a strong scrum and lineout.

The All Blacks, with 10 years of Super 12 experience, were on a different level from the Lions on Saturday. Spin-doctoring, no matter how skilful, is no substitute for performance.

Spiro Zavos – Sydney Morning Herald

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