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Spread of outrage over Richie McCaw ignores the facts of the matter

The New Zealand captain has unfairly been the target of headlines since last night’s World Cup semi-final.

RICHIE MCCAW WON’T be missing the World Cup final, certainly not for elbowing South Africa’s Francois Louw on the forehead.

That’s simply because he didn’t elbow Francois Louw on the forehead.

Richie McCaw and Kieran Read celebrate at the end of the match McCaw celebrates New Zealand's victory. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The extent to which grainy footage of the New Zealand captain running into the South Africa back row took off and spread around the globe last night was truly staggering. It was also somewhat dispiriting.

McCaw bends the law regularly, it’s part of what makes him such an effective rugby player, but the glee with which many suggested he would miss what is possibly the biggest game of his life was over the top.

It’s perturbing that so many jumped to conclusions without having watched the incident in detail, without actually making the time and effort to be certain that there was an elbow involved.

Let’s take a look at the incident again, including Louw’s lack of reaction.

McCaw

McCaw starts to the left of the breakdown, lining himself up to carry, but realises that Louw is going to steal possession and so moves towards the ruck. As Louw transfers the turnover ball to Damien de Allende, that’s where McCaw’s focus shifts.

Where is the contact between McCaw and Louw? Breaking it down frame by frame helps us to be clear.

Below, McCaw is approaching Louw, eyes focused on the ball in de Allende’s hands.

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 09.23.00

In the next two frames, we can see that McCaw has actually tucked his right arm close to his body to avoid any contact with Louw’s head.

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 09.23.11

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 09.23.20

The next two frames show that McCaw’s arms is beyond Louw’s head, without having the slightest hint of contact with the forehead on the way past.

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 09.23.30

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 09.23.46

Of course, there is contact involved here but the next two frames show that it came between McCaw’s hip/upper thigh area and the right shoulder of Louw.

This is why the Springboks back row was sent sprawling to the ground, not due to any contact between elbow and head. Only when McCaw’s arm has moved past Louw does the contact actually occur.

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 09.23.52

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 09.24.00

It’s only after this contact, between McCaw’s hip area and Louw’s right shoulder, that Louw’s head turns.

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 09.24.13

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 09.24.29

So there it is: contact between McCaw’s hip area and the shoulder of Louw, no elbow to the forehead as has so readily been said in many places. There’s simply nothing in it.

Could McCaw have done more to avoid making any contact at all with Louw? He quite probably could have, but his eyes are focused on the ball alone here. Anyone who has played the sport or watched it extensively will understand that people get run into all the time, it’s part and parcel of the game.

Louw clearly doesn’t feel any grievance whatsoever in this instance, nor did he highlight anything untoward in relation to this contact at any stage of the game.

There have been suggestions that Louw’s forehead was cut in the non-incident above, requiring stitches, but the truth is that he suffered the first of his two blood injuries more than five minutes later.

Read

Above, we see the moment where Louw was cut – a totally accidental collision with Kieran Read as the Kiwi number eight lands after catching a lineout.

The incident above happens with 26.59 on the clock and immediately the blood appears on Louw’s face.

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 09.50.21

The McCaw non-incident occurred at 21.19, so for that to be linked with Louw’s cut is simply incorrect and unfair to all parties.

It’s been staggering to watch how quickly this non-story has blown up around the world – making headlines on websites and the front pages of newspapers’ sports sections. It also demonstrates that we need to be thorough in reviewing things before pointing fingers.

We demand that much of rugby players, coaches and referees. Time to move on.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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