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Graham Henry kicks hornet's nest with match fixing suggestions over France defeat

The World Cup-winning coach said he felt physically ill after his All Blacks team were defeated by the French in the 2007 quarter-final.

Referee Wayne Barnes gives Luke McAlister a yellow card in 2007.
Referee Wayne Barnes gives Luke McAlister a yellow card in 2007.
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

YOU HAVE TO love the New Zealanders and their obsession with rugby.

A World Cup win at Eden Park last October has not sated the nagging sense that they were ‘sawn off’ and cheated out of another Webb Ellis trophy in 2007.

Graham Henry, the coach that led the All Blacks to their holy grail last year, has spoken out about a sense of grievance and disgust that has not been quelled by defeating France 8-7 in the World Cup Final.

Henry spoke to TVNZ’s One News this weekend about New Zealand’s 20-18 quarter-final loss in 2007 that knocked them out of the World Cup and almost cost him his job.

“You know, we’ve said nothing for four years, nothing, have we?” asked Henry. “The time has come to say what we really thought, or what I really thought.”

Suspecting a fix

Referee Wayne Barnes yellow-carded Luke McAllister early in the second-half and refused to award New Zealand a late penalty their battering ram pressure merited.

Eventually it fell to Frederic Michalak to kick the ball out of play in injury time and send the French into raptures.

Henry, known affectionately as Ted in his homeland, requested and studied tapes of the French defeat ad nauseam and developed a growing opinion that his team had been hard done by, perhaps illegally so.

He claims, in a game that New Zealand enjoyed 73% possession, there were 40 French infringements and Barnes and his colleagues neither spotted or awarded. He declared:

We just got sawn off by the officials in the game and that’s the major reason we lost the game. The All Blacks didn’t get a penalty for the last 60 minutes of the game and attacked over 70% of that time.

“Now that’s, that’s impossible but it wasn’t impossible on that particular day.”

The former Auckland and Wales coach went so far as to approach the Rugby Union to look into the possibility of betting irregularities he feels cost his team a game they should have won ’42-3 or 42-6′.

He said, “I asked the Rugby Union and the international board if there was any, any laws or any system that they use to look at bizarre games and look at the possibility of sports betting.

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“But apparently they don’t which surprised me.”

Not standing down

Henry came out at the end of that defeat and refused, at the time, to make excuses. “We just took it on the chin,” he added.

There were vociferous calls across New Zealand for the Christchurch native to fall on his sword but he convinced the NZRU to give him the chance for redemption. The 64-year-old recalled:

The players were looking at me, how’s Ted going to handle this, he’s under pressure. Is he going to stand up or is he going to run away?

“So I had to stand up because that’s what I’ve been asking them to do for the last four years.”

As fate would have it, New Zealand faced France in the World Cup final on 23 October and held on against a fierce French onslaught to win 8-7.

There was no mention from Henry about the stray knee that his captain Richie McCaw dropped on French fly-half Morgan Parra or the blatant offsides, on the night, of All Black centre Conrad Smith.

The reaction of French coach Marc Lievremont?

“I have no complaints,” he said, “I’m tremendously sad but tremendously proud, too.”

Ask him again in five years.

*You can see the full interview by clicking here.

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