Rugby: Spat overshadows All Blacks run

7th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

WELLINGTON, June 7, 2007 (AFP) - The All Blacks are poised to break the world record for consecutive home Test wins when they play France Saturday, but a spiteful war of words is threatening to take the gloss off the performance.

 WELLINGTON, June 7, 2007 (AFP) - The All Blacks are poised to break the world record for consecutive home Test wins when they play France Saturday, but a spiteful war of words is threatening to take the gloss off the performance.

If, as expected, the All Blacks beat the seriously under-strength French side it will stretch their unbeaten home run to 23 Tests, eclipsing the present record of 22 they share with the 1999-2003 England performance.

But the build-up to the second Test here has been far removed from the feats of the All Blacks leading up to the World Cup, with escalating verbal insults from rival coaches Graham Henry and Bernard Laporte.

Henry fired the first shots earlier in the week when he accused the French of slowing down play by frequent injury breaks and of giving up contesting the scrums in the first Test, won by the All Blacks 42-11 in Auckland last weekend.

"We find that a frustration," Henry said, without referring to the All Blacks' own sloppiness which also detracted from the match.

"Rugby's a great game when it's played right but at the moment it's deteriorating in quality, and that's irritating."

Laporte fired back Thursday, accusing Henry of being a hypocrite riding on the coat-tails of some outstanding players.

"I'd like to say to Graham Henry and (co-coach) Steve Hansen that they spoke a lot less when they were coaching Wales," he said.

"When we beat Wales 36-3 at Cardiff (in 2000), he (Henry) had a lot less to say before and after the match.

"It's like they're riding a wave here. I imagine it's got something to do with the good air in New Zealand. That's good, because it's (Joe) Rokocoko, (Dan) Carter, (Richie) McCaw, (Ali) Williams who are making sure of their successful coaching careers."

Henry was Welsh coach for four years from 1998 and was succeeded for a two-year stint by Hansen.

Forced to bring a French side lacking stars who remained at home for their club championship play-offs, Laporte backed players Thomas Castaignede and Sebastien Chabal -- who said Henry was out of line with his accusations of negativity by the second-tier side.

"That really got me going, because it angered the players and so I told them 'don't worry, I'll sort out Henry.'"

Henry meanwhile had problems in his own camp with ace flyhalf Daniel Carter pulling out of the second Test after losing his battle to overcome a sprained ankle.

He has been replaced by Nick Evans, who played the second half of the first Test when Carter left the field.

Captain and flanker Richie McCaw, who also went off injured last week, was confident his bruised hip had cleared sufficiently for him to play in his 50th Test.

In another late change, centre Conrad Smith dropped off the bench after he failed to recover from a hamstring strain.

Utility back Ma'a Nonu has been recalled to the squad to replace Smith, while veteran wing Doug Howlett has been added to the bench following the promotion of Evans.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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