Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Henry fires salvo back at Andrew


All Black coach Graham Henry has returned serve on England's caretaker rival Rob Andrew, calling his criticism of Richie McCaw an "old story".

On Monday Andrew, deputising for Martin Johnson on the two-test tour of New Zealand, hit-out at aspects of McCaw's performance in the first encounter at Eden Park.

McCaw had an outstanding night in the 37-20 win, again displaying his world-class skills at the breakdown.

But Andrew didn't see it that way, offering to provide the All Black captain with an England jersey as he believed he was constantly on England's side of the ruck.

A blunt Henry said the criticism of McCaw was to be expected, as it was from many touring teams in New Zealand.

"With Richie McCaw, that is an old story isn't it," Henry said."It happens every time we play against European sides, they are always contesting his legality at the tackle area. I guess we are used to it. I think he is the best player in the world in that particular position, in that particular skill. And people find it hard to handle. We think we are very fortunate to have a player of that immense ability playing in that particular position, which attracts a bit interest because he does turnover a bit of ball."

Henry ignited the war of words less than an hour after full-time at Eden Park, criticising England for adopting a "passive scrum" when their hopes of winning were dead and buried.

England hit back on Monday, with prop Matt Stevens blaming the scrum worries on All Black Neemia Tialata.

Andrew then went on the attack, criticising McCaw, the fact match referee Nigel Owens stayed in the same Auckland hotel as the All Blacks and also pointed the finger at the men in black for the scrummaging issues.

"I think we are both right, aren't we," Henry said in response to Andrew's assertions at scrum-time."I think if there is a contestable scrum, we are going to get a better product. I think if both sides contest the scrum, the results are going to be better all around for the spectators, for the players and what we are trying to achieve in the game. It is good that we agree on that."

Andrews' comments about Owens' accommodation arrangements were particularly barbed.
The IRB last year ruled that respective coaches could not meet with match officials in the lead-up to tests.

Andrew insinuated that the fact the All Blacks and Owens stayed in the same hotel would have provided Henry with a golden chance to raise any pre-test concerns.

Henry said that was nonsense, adding he was unsure where South Africa's Jonathan Kaplan was staying in the lead-up to this weekend's second test in Christchurch.

"I didn't even notice Nigel Owens in our hotel. If he was there, it is news to me," Henry said."But Jonathan is very welcome in any hotel he wants to stay in. If he wants to stay in ours, then that would be fine. I probably won't notice him either. The rules are that we don't discuss the game with referees prior. And we haven't done that because they are the rules. So I don't know if there is any advantage being in one hotel or the either. Coaches say unusual things at times, even I may have said some unusual things over the years. It wasn't a factor."

Henry has made four changes to his starting 15 against England.
That includes the introduction of rising backline stars Rudi Wulf and Richard Kahui for their test debuts. Adam Thomson also comes in at blindside flanker, with Rodney So'oialo reverting from No 6 to No 8. The other change sees Leon MacDonald coming off the bench to start at fullback for Mils Muliaina.
All Blacks versus England: 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Rodney So'oialo, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Andrew Hore, Neemia Tialata. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Anthony Boric, Sione Lauaki, Jimmy Cowan, Stephen Donald, Mils Muliaina.
McCaw, a cheat?

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