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What if Darcy Swain made a throat-slash gesture to a New Zealand player?

Aaron Smith of the All Blacks is congratulated by Darcy Swain of the Wallabies after playing in his 100th test during the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australia Wallabies at Eden Park on August 07, 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Darcy Swain seems to be Australasian rugby’s villain du jour.

If he made a throat-slitting gesture at a New Zealand player, how would we like that? And, if not Swain, then just a rank and file Wallaby then?

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But if an All Black – in this case Ardie Savea – stoops to that level, apparently we should all move on. Nothing to see here, this is a model citizen who’s made a fulsome apology so stop clutching your pearls.

Well, I’m not sure it’s our place to be the moral arbiters here and I certainly don’t think New Zealand Rugby’s media shills should be declaring this kind of behaviour doesn’t require strong sanction.

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This isn’t about passion or competitiveness and a win-at-all-costs mentality. It’s just grubby.

Many of our leading rugby players appear to style themselves after NBA stars. Guys such as Ja Morant, who has just issued a mea culpa or his own for some even more dopey behaviour than Savea’s.

In many ways I’m less interested in Savea’s act than the reaction to it.

What we’ll tolerate when it’s one of our own, as opposed to the howls of outrage that would accompany the same thing from someone else.

Ideology will inevitably make a hypocrite of you and our prevailing rugby one is that our players are more virtuous than yours.

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Well, in the same way that we pat players on the back for the various acts of virtue signalling, so we should criticise them when they resort to using the international symbol for “you’re a dead man.’’

But we haven’t done that here. We’ve said Savea is a great bloke, that this is out of character, that he knows he’s done the wrong thing and that he should be forgiven.

I like Savea. I’ve argued at different times that he ought to be All Blacks captain and applauded him for the way he’s worn his status as an icon of the Samoan community.

But what happened in Melbourne was no good and we should be big enough to say so.

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If not, then we’ll need to demonstrate the same level of tolerance when someone we don’t like does something to offend our collective sensibilities.

When, say, an opposing player or team doesn’t treat the haka in the way that we’d prefer or – as Quade Cooper did – they tangle with the wrong guy, we’ll need to rush to their defence, not condemn them.

The days of making cartoon clowns out of other teams’ coaches are over.

Or, at least they should be, if we hope to retain a shred of dignity.

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Jon 2 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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