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The Ireland tactic that Foster couldn't resist taking a swipe at

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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It’s a weekly occurrence now in rugby, the commentary on the refereeing and its shortcomings, and Saturday’s aftermath in Dublin was no different when it came to the protagonists dissecting the fallout from Ireland defeating the All Blacks 29-20. All Blacks boss Ian Foster swept into the media conference room at Aviva Stadium and was quickly full of kudos for the victors.

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“Congratulations to Ireland,” he said unprompted at the start of the briefing, making an address off his own bat before the laptop was opened to overseas-based queries and then questions followed from those in attendance in the room situated in the bowels of the D4 stadium.   

“They thoroughly deserved their win. It was a game that they came out and played incredibly well, held the ball for long periods… I was really impressed with them. They played a high tempo game, kept us chasing and when it really mattered at the end we just didn’t quite have the composure to take the opportunity that presented to us and they just played a pressure game in that last little part.”

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All very complimentary and all well received. Yet there was eventually one particular issue, other than his disagreement over the ruling out of the second half Akira Ioane try for a TMO adjudicated forward pass from Richie Mo’unga, that really got his goat – alleged delaying tactics from Ireland that slowed down the game’s tempo coming down the finishing straight. 

Between all the various jigs and reels over the course of an 80-minute match that took two hours to complete, James Lowe whacking the ball into the stands at 5.15 pm to finally call a halt to a contest with a 3.15pm kick-off, Foster was teed off that there were too many disruptions at a time in the game when the All Blacks just simply wanted to get on with the action quickly.      

“The game is supposed to be played fast,” he insisted near the end of the 16-minute briefing he attended in the company of skipper Sam Whitelock. “There are times if someone is injured and needs treatment they get a certain window of time and if they can’t fix it in that time they go to the sideline, so it’s hard for refs to try and speed the game up. 

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“This is not a biggie for me but it was clearly a tactic and good on them [Ireland] for doing it because there was a lot of them going down with cramp and all sorts of stuff. I don’t begrudge that but we have just got to make sure we keep the game ticking over.”

Anyone in the stands in Dublin who had access to the reflink would have had their ears perked by the constant chatter that unfolded across the two hours, referee Luke Pearce regularly reminding the combatants that he had a team of officials who should be allowed to do their job without interference.   

At one stage in the first half, when Dane Coles was on as a temporary sub with Cody Taylor in the sin bin, the All Blacks No16 was even heard remarking to the referee about Johnny Sexton, “He is a bit of a mouthy.” Sexton was in the sense that Pearce admonished him on a couple of occasions for making referrals that the officials weren’t interested in entertaining. 

What was Sexton’s view of the accusation? “He [Coles] has plenty to say all the time. I don’t mind that. When you are on the pitch it is heated, it’s a battle and I was trying to speak to the ref and they were taking offence that I was speaking to the ref. 

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I wasn’t saying anything out of line I don’t think but we will have a look. Something I am always trying to work on is my communication with the referees. We will see how I went. Maybe I let it boil over at times towards the end of the first half when I felt that we had the ball and we weren’t getting some of the rewards for it, but we will go and have a look.”

  

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