Gregor Paul: Are refs in awe of the All Blacks?

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The Independent Online

If this tour wasn't already hard enough, now the All Blacks will have to watch out for officials determined to show they are not intimidated by the touring side.

They have Warren Gatland to thank for that after the Welsh coach suggested referees don't want to play a role in upset victories against the All Blacks.

Can that really be true - do the All Blacks win favourable decisions other teams don't? Is there a Manchester United effect at work - where referees fear the reputation and heritage of the big brand?

Gatland was certain that Dan Carter's high tackle on Martin Roberts with 10 minutes remaining would not have gone unnoticed or unpunished by the officials had it been committed by a Welshman.

"A guy makes a break inside the 22 and you feel like if that was at the other end it's three points and a yellow card.

"The officials missed it - so we were pretty disappointed about that."

Carter has since been cited for the tackle and and will face a disciplinary hearing in Milan, where the New Zealand squad are preparing for Sunday's clash against Italy.

Wily old fox that he is, Gatland knows the damage to his side can't be fixed. The moment has gone. But what he has done is ensure that Stuart Dickinson (Italy test), Jonathan Kaplan (England test) and Alain Rolland (France test) will all be asking themselves if they have the courage to make tough calls against the All Blacks at critical times.

Gatland's comments will be locked in their heads now, and all three referees will be conscious they can't back down; they can't be seen to be in awe of the All Blacks.

It doesn't help that there is some legitimacy to Gatland's claims. England are still puzzled over why Simon Shaw was sent off against the All Blacks in 2004 for the most innocuous act while Ali Williams avoided any sanction for some careless footwork that drew plenty of claret from Josh Lewsey's head in 2002.

The Lions don't know why Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu weren't cited for their combined clean-out of Brian O'Driscoll in 2005.

And now Carter, the biggest name in the world game, has escaped the attention of Craig Joubert for a high shot that had a major bearing on the outcome of yesterday's test.

Sourced from: The New Zealand Herald