Opinion: Hore suspended beats hanging
All Blacks' hooker Andrew Hore (Photosport file)
By Jim Kayes, in London
Andrew Hore should be thankful hanging was abolished in Britain in 1965 or he'd be swinging from the Marble Arch.
The All Blacks hooker's cold-cocking of Wales lock Bradley Davies has stirred some extreme reactions. Go on to social media sites like Twitter or tune into radio talkback and Hore is a villain who should, at the very least in some people's world, be banned from rugby for life.
There is little sense of perspective and certainly no thought given to the precedents already set this year.
Springbok prop Dean Greyling was suspended for one game for whacking All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw in the head with his elbow earlier this year. Wallaby flanker Scott Higginbotham was banned for two weeks for two charges of striking McCaw's in the head - one with his knee, the other with his head. The judicial officer said a mitigating circumstance in Higginbotham's favour was that McCaw wasn't hurt.
The damage inflicted should be irrelevant. It is the intent that matters. Greyling and Higginbotham attacked McCaw's head with the intent to injure. So too, it would seem, did Hore. That he was successful (Davies was knocked out and taken to hospital) is due to luck and perhaps Hore's accuracy.
But what he did was no better, nor worse, than what Greyling or Higginbotham did when you look at what they were each cited for. Kneeing and headbutting a player in the head are low acts of thuggery. So is whacking someone with your elbow. So too is hitting a bloke from behind.
So the challenge for the judiciary this week in London is to consider past penalties, Hore's clean record and what he is charged with and - most importantly - find a suitable penalty. It shouldn't be one or two weeks, just as Greyling and Higginbotham should have got more, but precedent suggests it might be.
Whatever the ban, the damage done to Steve Hansen's plans to shape his All Blacks as a team who play hard, aggressive but fair rugby have been shattered in Britain. Adam Thomson's stupid stomping of Scotland's Alasdair Strokosch put the first serious dent in that image, then Hore finished it off. There is no defence for what either player did. Stomping and smacking a bloke from behind are thuggish acts from a bygone era. They are cowardly whatever the provocation.
While some people are keen to paint the All Blacks as thugs, Hansen insists the tag is inaccurate and unfair.
"We've shown plenty of times over the last 12 months that we're a disciplined side. You only have to look at all the incidents that have surrounded Richie where we've not jumped in and made it a big scene. We pride ourselves on playing good rugby. Yeah, we're physical and we don't take a back step, but we don't go out there to do things intentionally."
The last part of that sentence doesn't stack up in Hore's case, but Hansen is right that the All Blacks haven't reacted to the acts on McCaw.
Perhaps it is because they don't have an enforcer in their midst as they did with Brad Thorn and Jerome Kaino, but it's more because McCaw's ordered his troops not to retaliate. His attitude is that if he is hit, and the All Blacks keep clear, then it is easy for the judiciary to deal with the attacker. Which explains why the All Blacks were furious with the light bans Greyling and Higginbotham received.
Rugby's judicial system desperately needs to find consistency in its bans, but they also have to act as a deterrent to foul play. It hasn't done either to date.
Hore and the All Blacks' concern will be if the judiciary finds its teeth this week in London and decides now is the time to make an example.
Hore may not be hung, but he could be suspended for a while.