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It Really Has Been An Incredibly Long Time Since A New Zealand Player Was Sent Off

It Really Has Been An Incredibly Long Time Since A New Zealand Player Was Sent Off
Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
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New Zealand's reputation for discipline is taking a vicious pounding this morning.

According to Irish fans, New Zealand delivered an exhibition of high tackling and "cheap shots".

Referee Jaco Peyper, whose capacity for seeing no evil hasn't diminished since February, sent two players to the bin but generally took a soft line on many of the calls.

Judging by the various forums, the standard response from New Zealand fans has been "piss off with your moaning, you're worse than the Poms!"

But the New Zealanders can point to the record books and say look, we've a near a spotless record in the red card department.

Amazingly, the last time a New Zealand player was red carded, there was no red cards. According to the ESPN's exhaustive and up-to-the-minute records, they haven't had a player sent off since 1967.

The player in question was the fearsome Colin 'Pine-Tree' Meads, later voted New Zealand's Player of the Century. He was sent off by referee Kevin Kelleher for kicking Scotland's David Chisholm as he lay on the ground in the '67 game in Murrayfield.


Back in the 1960s, a sending off in rugby was more like a national scandal than a sporting disciplinary measure.

For one thing, it was incredibly difficult to get sent off in those days.

Meads wasn't sent off even when he prematurely ended the career of Australian great Ken Catchpole in 1968, grabbing and wrenching his leg as he lay under a ruck and tearing his hamstring off the bone.


The Associated Press produced a video on the '67 game in Murrayfield. Balls thought we had moved past plummy voiced announcers commentating on games in the past-tense in 1967 but there we are. He informed us at the end that it was the first time a player had been sent off in Britain since 1925.

For the record, ESPN tells us that only three Irish players have ever been sent off in international matches, all of them back rowers incidentally.


Blazing a trail in this department was our great chain-smoking No. 8 Willie Duggan who, along with Wales's Geoff Wheel, became the first player to be sent off in the history of the Five Nations back in 1977.

Moss Keane used to say that Willie never chose to regard the incident as a sending off. He was merely asked to leave the field and he obliged. Classic after-dinner fare here.

Duggan always maintained he was never sent off. He said to me the referee came towards him and said would he mind leaving the field. And Duggan says: "Sure not at all, I was bolloxed anyway"

The other two sending offs are more recent. Jamie Heaslip was sent off by Wayne Barnes for kicking Richie McCaw in a ruck in 2010, while CJ Stander was sent off against South Africa this year.

Read more: My Lord! Has The Controversial Stephen Jones Become Irish Rugby's Biggest Admirer?

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