Tuesday, October 31, 2006

One down, four to go?

Great Britain opened their Tri Nations campaign on Saturday with a narrow defeat to New Zealand in Christchurch, in a game that has generated more than its fair share of talking points already.

It turns out that New Zealand fielded Australian-born hooker Nathan Fien on the basis of his supposed Kiwi heritage under the "grandparent" rule, which enables a player not capped by any other country to represent the land of his parents/grandparents even if he wasn't born there. Apparently the relative from the land of the long white cloud whose birth certificate Fien produced was actually his great-grandmother, one generation too far to qualify him for New Zealand and therefore making him ineligible.

It's not clear at the moment whether the NZRL were aware of this and played Fien anyway, or if it was just a genuine administrative error. Usual procedure in most leagues around the world is that points are deducted for fielding an ineligible player, even if it's by accident. Given the way the Kiwis have started this competition with two defeats prior to the win over Great Britain, losing those two points would make the next meeting of the two sides in a fortnight a must win.

If that wasn't enough on its own, Aussie coach Ricky Stuart has chipped in on the subject of foul play, obviously looking to protect the little angels in his own side from any unnecessary fisticuffs. From Saturday's game the two notable incidents involved Adrian "12 seconds" Morley - the first a tackle on Ruben Wiki which started off across the chest then slipped up under the chin putting Wiki on his backside, the second a cuff round the head for Brent Webb in retaliation to a sly elbow. Given that Stuart was Morley's coach at Sydney Roosters prior to taking the Australian job, he'd be hard pushed to complain that he didn't know what to expect particularly in the light of Morley finishing his Roosters career with a lengthy suspension - not the first of his time in the NRL either.

Stuart obviously sees an advantage to his side if the game is kept open and flowing on Saturday, and will have been peeved at the selection of Ashley Klein as referee who he believed kept a very poor 10 metres between the sides in the two games against the Kiwis. His comments would appear to be the first step towards putting pressure on Klein - Aussie born but based in the UK - to referee in a way that favours his side when they meet Great Britain. Hopefully it won't work to influence the way Klein referees, but recent series between the two sides have shown that when the Aussie coaching staff complain about something, British referees have a record of rolling over and complying with their wishes.

1 comment:

john said...

The eligibility situation has long been a mess. The Aussies have Hunt, Mason, Thurston and Maitua who could as easily be Kiwis, while NZ has Webb and Fien (both of Aussie parentage) plus Pritchard and the Cayless brothers (Australian born Maori)
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