SO AN international coach considered massaging the rules to his potential advantage in a bid to counter a perceived injustice – forgive me if I don’t combust in a fit of moral outrage.
Warren Gatland’s confession that he thought about asking one of his prop forwards to feign injury in order to trigger uncontested scrums could never be dressed up as anything other than underhand.
But was it any worse than swapping the ball because a certain high-profile World Cup winning fly-half’s kicking radar was malfunctioning?
Furthermore, I’d suggest the very fact Gatland countenanced such a pro-active ploy exemplifies just why he is so highly coveted and managed to steer Wales to within a point of their greatest sporting achievement.
If only England, who sank without trace showcasing a brand of rugby that would have looked out of date back when Martin Johnson was still able to boast a full head of hair, could’ve come up with something as innovative to help stem the tide against France in their one-sided quarter-final.
Having just seen his inspirational captain sent-off, rightly or wrongly, it was human nature to think of exploring any possible option in order to redress the balance in a game which represented the pinnacle of an already ultra-successful career.
In any case, by dispensing with contested scrums Gatland may well have ended up playing into the hands of a French side, who would have been able to make better use of the one-man advantage had they been able to generate quick ball.
On a more general theme, anything that reduces the frequency of scrums has got to be a good thing for the game.
I’m not privy to what goes on between front row forwards – not that I ever want to be – and it appears that match officials are also increasingly clueless as to what occurs with penalties awarded seemingly at random.
Moreover, scrums slow the game down – far too much game time is wasted getting them organised and re-set – are dangerous by their nature and prevent fans from seeing the ball in the hands of the more skillful backs.
James Goldman is a Sports Reporter at City A.M. Follow him on Twitter @JamesG_City_AM
MILLIONS of Welshmen, and the millions more of us who were desperate to see Warren Gatland’s thrilling blend of exuberance and know-how outdo a very ordinary France, still burn with the injustice of Saturday’s result.
That Wales deserve to be preparing for the final rather than a third place play-off, only the staunchest of Francophiles would disagree. The courageous men in red were the better team on the day, superior by far over the whole tournament and were undoubtedly handicapped by a harsh sending off.
But let’s be clear: that could never excuse cheating. Sport is such marvellous theatre because it is a test of who is the best, and that test is predicated on all parties playing by the rules. It might not always happen, but toss that principle onto the bonfire and it turns the contest into something worthless.
Does Gatland imagine he deserves credit for considering but ultimately rejecting the idea of faking an injury to another prop, in order to benefit from uncontested scrums? Surely picking the honest option is the minimum we should expect from our sporting heroes. Better that it had never even crossed his mind.
Had he given into temptation and taken the dishonest route Wales would likely be in the final, and in with a shot at immortality. But would that winners’ medal look as good, the champagne taste as sweet, or the tributes feel as fulfilling? Not a chance.
The Bloodgate scandal – in which Harlequins coaching staff used a fake blood capsule to simulate a mouth injury and bring on an extra replacement – shocked rugby union followers to the core. That incident may have been more premeditated, but, had Gatland erred, the crime – seeking to steal an advantage from a feigned ailment – would have been much the same.
Wales have been a breath of fresh air at the World Cup, not least because their enthusiasm and attitude has been in delightful contrast to the unrelenting parade of embarrassments thrown up by England’s campaign. Not for them the ferry jumping, hotel staff pestering or illegal ball-swapping.
Sympathy and admiration already abounds for Gatland’s team, thanks to the way they have lit up this tournament. This admission does absolutely nothing to enhance it.
Frank Dalleres is Sports Editor of City A.M. Follow him on Twitter @frankdalleres