Rugby

Brian O'Driscoll: 'The Law Should Be The Same For The All Blacks As It Is For Everyone'

Brian O'Driscoll: 'The Law Should Be The Same For The All Blacks As It Is For Everyone'

The mini-feud between Brian O'Driscoll and New Zealand rugby continues to simmer over.

O'Driscoll ignited a firestorm of criticism in the New Zealand media after tweeting criticism of the Kiwis and, in particular, the alleged eye-gouging incident by Owen Franks on Australian lock Kane Douglas during the All Blacks' resounding win over the Wallabies last weekend.

In his tweet the former Ireland captain called on World Rugby to take action on the All Black prop which, somewhat inevitably, led to a barrage of tweets aimed right back at him. Not only that, several prominent members of the New Zealand sports media also took aim at O'Driscoll, some even accusing him of not being 'over' the spear tackle which ended his 2005 Lions captaincy moments into the first test against the All Blacks.

Speaking to Ger Gilroy on Newstalk's Off The Ball today from Electric Picnic O'Driscoll addressed the issue once more, saying that just because they're the finest side in international rugby this doesn't mean that they're beyond reproach for criticism.

You say nothing and hope you get away with it, rather than making sure that their character hasn't been assasinated by scurilous comments.

I think they've got a great argumentative point at the moment that they're there at the top and they're there to be knocked off it, and that's why the whole world is trying to pick holes in them...which is true, their game is far superior to anyone else in the world.

They are very, very easy to watch - they play a different brand - but it doesn't mean they're adverse to foul play. They're humans, and they're as human as anyone else and they are capable of pushing the boundaries a step too far like any other player in the whole of the world is. And when that happens the law should be the same for them as it is for everyone.

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The former Leinster man maintained that the entire incident is being blown out of proportion and that he's not looking "for the book to be thrown at [Franks]" but he cited incidents in the northern hemisphere game which he said were innocuous by comparison but resulted in long suspensions for certain players, particularly Chris Ashton's eye-gouge on Ulster's Luke Marshall which, O'Driscoll contends, probably cost the wing his England career.

O'Driscoll certainly wasn't alone in questioning the lack of any official sanctioning for Franks. World Rugby vice-chairman Augustin Pichot said that SANZAAR's (the southern hemisphere governing body) decision to not take action "embarrassed" him, particularly when Pichot's compatriot Mariano Galarza was suspended for nine weeks after being found to have eye-gouged All Black player Brodie Retallick in last year's World Cup.

He said:

I cannot explain to Galarza who was suspended for an offence on an All Black when he touched his face and the same case or worse last weekend doesn’t even get cited. It’s wrong. How do I explain to Galarza when he phoned me that he was left out of the World Cup from the start to the finish and another player in the same situation one year later doesn’t even get cited.

What do I tell him as an administrator of the game? I am completely embarrassed. He dreamed of playing in a World Cup and I can now not tell him that it was fair. What is fair? Not citing Franks, or giving a punishment to Galarza? Where do I draw a line?

We are the ones that administrate the game and we need consistency. I’m not criticising the citing officer. I’m not criticising the player. I’m criticising the consistency. It’s wrong for the players because at the end of the day it’s a question of integrity and player welfare.

The same with consistency of refereeing. We can get some calls wrong or right we are human beings and we always have to respect the referee, but we have to be consistent worldwide.

Given these comments from Pichot and O'Driscoll, the pair might want to avoid their Twitter pages for a couple of days lest they see another barrage of abuse from disgruntled New Zealand fans. That, and Ireland's two clashes with the All Blacks next November now have a little extra spice to them.

John Balfe

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