2017 will be remembered as a year of controversy for a lot of things, and rugby was no different. Here’s a look at the moments on and off the field that made for an interesting season.
Jerome Kaino/Aaron Smith playin’ up
While sex scandals were mostly the domain of Hollywood this year, the All Blacks had to deal with a couple of their own, in the same week no less. In the build up to the first Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney, it emerged through the Australian press that Jerome Kaino had been engaged in an extra-marital affair, meaning the veteran flanker flew home and didn’t rejoin the team till later in the season. Meanwhile, poor old Aaron Smith not only had last year’s toilet-sex travesty brought up again, but also his terrible command of written English when text messages he sent were published.
Alun Wyn Jones gets his bell rung, plays on
Remember way back at the start of the year when World Rugby said they’d get serious about concussions? Turns out they might’ve got one themselves and forgotten, or simply shown that they don’t actually care. During the tense third test between the All Blacks and Lions, Alun Wyn Jones was knocked out cold before his head even hit the ground by a high shot by Jerome Kaino. Barely five minutes passed and Wyn Jones returned to the action. The post-match inquiry somehow cleared the Lions’ medical staff of any wrongdoing, proving that their pre season bluster was just a load of hot air.
Kaino catches Jones and goes to the bin.
Lions were abysmal vs 14 for large parts of last week. Lessons learnt? pic.twitter.com/uymohSIzDH
— Steve Lai (@stevelai) July 8, 2017
The World Cup hosting shambles
There were three applicants to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and somehow World Rugby managed to make both Ireland and South Africa believe they were going to win before handing it to France. The whole thing was a shambles, helped in no part by the fact that the Irish thought it was theirs to lose, before a pre tournament report said to give it to South Africa. In the end, the lure of French money won the day – and in all honesty, who is surprised by that?
If there’s one event filled with anticipation by the rugby media, it’s whenever Wallaby coach Cheika gets near a mic. While there’s been some beauties this year, he reached his peak in the aftermath of the their 27-all draw against the Springboks in Bloemfontein. Even though it was plain for anyone with eyesight to see that Israel Folau pulled the hair of Dillyn Leyds in an attempted tackle, Cheika defended his fullback vehemently to the point of comedy. There’s no word on whether he’s actually bothered to watch the incident.
Pacific Island funding
Sadly, this one can probably be added to the list of any season. However, the stark reality of the disparity of payment between the major powers and the Pacific Islands was laid bare when it was revealed that English players would be taking home £22,000 for their test against Manu Samoa. This was in comparison to the Samoan each receiving around £650, which made the actual game itself a bit of an afterthought as action was demanded from all corners. Whether World Rugby will actually take any remains to be seen.
Michael Cheika actually had a legitimate reason to get angry last month, namely when rookie ref Ben O’Keeffe and his TMO got together and disallowed a couple of crucial tries at Twickenham. Back in June though, it was Kieran Read who was dirty at referee Roman Poite. The Frenchman conspired with his countryman assistant ref to reverse a potential game winning penalty to the home side, a decision that will probably define the All Blacks’ entire season.