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Rugby's biggest controversies of 2017

By Jamie Wall
Alun Wyn Jones of the Lions is felled by a high tackle from Jerome Kaino

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.

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?

Michael Cheika

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.

End of the third All Blacks v Lions test/Wallabies v England tests

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.



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Turlough 4 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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