Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
22 September 2014
All of this 'media speak' about the Aaron Cruden late night drinking incident in Auckland last weekend already smacks of not everything about its background being told to we of the rugby public. While it could be said - do we fans have a right to know the full facts - I for one would like to think the full facts ought to come out. They would have in the old days of the media. Now it seems everyone, both NZRU and the media, are often together in on a game of 'shoosh - if we only whisper about this, it won't be as bad as it might be.'
It seems after Aaron Cruden had a few too many beers and slept in somewhere in Auckland and missed his All Black flight to Argentina - and is being punished thus by missing two test matches - the NZ Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Players Association, the Manawatu RU, the All Blacks camp in Argentina and, really sadly, the supposedly always probing New Zealand rugby media have forgotten about an incident which centred around Aaron Cruden which took place way back in - wait for it - 2011!
It involved the young man being involved in some questionable social misbehaviour in several Wellington pubs on a particular day back then. It was reported at the time but three years later, all we seemed to hear at the press conference in Buenos Aires (where the All Blacks are) and in Wellington (at NZRU headquarters) was rugby-speak about how much we 'love our children (the latest cutsey description of the All Blacks team) though sometimes we don't like their behaviour.' It was then added that the offending All Black 'child' would not be flown over on the next flight.
What was left hanging seems to be the hope that the 2011 story now might 'go away' to be not raised again by anyone.
Aaron Cruden seems to be a nice little bloke, always affable and available for interviews and he expresses himself well. This episode is very sad for him. He has a background story in rugby with regard to his recovery from early serious health problems which is both admirable and courageous. He plays the game very well. But it seems he is not perfect as a 'role model' (God I hate that term). Even as this latest drinking story emerged he said he was 'very disappointed in himself' over missing his flight and he has apologised to pretty well to everyone he thinks he should do.
But should that be the end of it? In 2011 having been originally left out of the All Blacks World Cup squad Cruden spent some time, to use his words, 'doing a bit of skateboarding and drinking a few beers' around Palmerston North.
But then followed a story which was first whispered around Wellington rugby circles that on the day of a World Cup game at the Westpac Stadium. His behaviour in several local bars in the city that day saw hotel management in several of them react sternly to him being on their premises. At the time at least one paper published the story. I was rung by one radio station for comment. I did not give any as I had no firm details at all. I know more now.
But now I also wonder; does a two test suspension hint at something else too? Something more serious than missing a hotel wake up call and being late for a plane flight? Are the NZRU now back-dating this latest, and as far as I can see less serious incident, to the 2011 story for their latest punishment? Make no mistake they knew about the earlier incident. To me a two-match suspension for a 'first offence' is very stern.
When nothing publicly happened over the 2011 story, charitably I suppose, I was like most Kiwis would have been. I think I put any non-action by the NZRU down to the All Blacks World Cup programme having dire selection problems at first five-eighths at that time (both Dan Carter and Colin Slade were injured by halfway through the tournament). So it was maybe 'necessary' to overlook any Cruden punishment issues.
My silence then is a logic I am not proud to own up to today. The NZRU instead called in the Manawatu man to the team to cover and eventually play in the final in place of the injured Daniel Carter. (Remember Stephen Donald only became the hero when Cruden went off the field injured).
But if this is the way the rugby reporting world wants to operate these days, then so be it. I can't change the media's feebleness one jot. But such a style is hardly fair by the media AND the NZRU on Zac Guildford, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg, Mils Muilaina, Bryron Kelleher, Aaron Smith, Jimmy Cowan, Ali Williams and even back to Norm Hewitt and even way, way back to Keith Murdoch (and any others I might have overlooked) all of whom had to fully and totally play out their own various All Black 'role model' indiscretions in the very harsh public glare.
Yet again the ABs win 4 Home Union tests in 4 Saturdays. On this day Wales are beaten 37-25.
This match idea, perhaps for annual playing in the three non-World Cup years, between teams from the Northern and Southern Hemisphere countries, was mooted first in 1999. The fixture, though originally thought to be a good one, had a checkered history in attaining an identity and a date on which to be played. The planned first game, heavily endorsed by the IRB, was originally set down for November 2002 at Cardiff though the venue was later changed to Twickenham.
The game was finally postponed in 2002 without having been played. Though the major nations of the world officially endorsed the principle of the game much informal quibbling emerged about its merit and placement.
The idea resurfaced in 2004 as a fundraiser to assist the United Nations World Food programme to support its work aiding victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Representative sides of the Northern and Southern hemispheres played at Twickenham in London in May 2005. The final score was Northern Hemisphere 19 – 54 Southern Hemisphere.
[A privately organised game between Northern and Southern Hemisphere teams had earlier been played in Hong Kong in March 1991. The Northern Hemisphere team, captained by Gary Whetton of New Zealand beat the Southern Hemisphere, led by Gavin Hastings of Scotland by 39-4]
In the Rugby World Cups 1987-2011 which final drew the biggest crowd?