Rugby World Cup: Loe lambasts All Blacks' lack of aggression

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The Independent Online
THE RECRIMINATIONS after France's semi-final victory over New Zealand show no sign of abating as All Black legends queue up to lambast the national team. Sympathy with the chastened All Blacks is non-existent - even complaints of French dirty tactics has cut no mustard from the tough men of the past.

Household All Black names have told the current "film stars" they would not have tolerated the tactics alleged to have been used by the French. After accusations yesterday that French players grabbed testicles, gouged eyes and indulged in butting, former internationals accused the new crop of All Blacks of going soft.

Perhaps the most notorious of New Zealand hard men summed up the feeling best. "If past All Blacks had their nuts pulled then someone would have got a big uppercut to the jaw or behind the ear. That would have stopped it. But when a team see their opponents are being put off, they'll keep doing it," said Richard Loe, a prop who was himself banned for eye gouging in 1992.

Loe said he understood why the forwards failed to "meet fire with fire", although admitted he would not have been able to resist hitting back. "My last little indiscretion was giving poor old Richard Fromont a bit of a backhander and that cost me NZ$15,000 (pounds 4,800) in fines or lost wages," Loe said from his Canterbury farm.

"I know for a fact that there are players in that team like Robin Brooke who have got the necessary mongrel," Loe said. "But I can partly understand why they didn't do anything with John Hart as the coach. Their careers could be ruined. When [Hart] was commentating and I was still playing, he openly said that he'd never select Richard Loe.

"He said he'd never have players of that nature in his team. That sums it up. Someone said after the recent netball series that netball was getting more like rugby, and rugby was getting more like netball. I think that's right."

Kevin Skinner, a former prop and national boxing champion, agreed with Loe. "The buggers laid down," he said. "On the football paddock you look after yourself and if you don't you are a bloody fool."

Colin Meads, the former captain and one of the greatest ever All Blacks, blamed money in the professional game for weakening their approach. "If all the money you can make is part of it, you would probably be the nice little boy too.

"I think the referees have been indoctrinated that there is no place in rugby for retaliation - and that's not fair, particularly if what's alleged to have happened did," Meads said.

The former full-back Fergie McCormick accused the All Blacks of swanning around like "bloody film stars". "What are we whinging about? The French were playing for keeps and they are in the final. Where are we? The Froggies have always been dirty little mongrels, even their pretty boys."

But while the general consensus was that strong-arm tactics were needed to quell the French, a former All Black captain, Sir Brian Lochore, said the side should have upped their aggression in a legal manner. "As everyone knows, you can do a lot more when you're angry. The All Blacks should have upped their aggression in taking the ball up and in their tackles."

If the "film stars" fail to show the required aggression to beat South Africa in the play-off in Cardiff tonight they can be assured of a hostile welcome when they arrive home. In fact, they would probably prefer to be in a French ruck.