All Blacks play down Barnes reunion in Scotland

The All Blacks are playing down the significance of playing this week’s Test against Scotland under referee Wayne Barnes who they blame for their exit at the Rugby World cup in France.

The All Black coach, Keven Mealamu and Ali Williams all dodged questions on Barnes even though senior All Blacks like Williams have publicly blamed Barnes for their Rugby World Cup exit.

Barnes came under fire from New Zealand after their quarterfinal loss to France in Cardiff. The public slated Barnes for sinbinning Luke McAlister, missing a forward pass in the lead-up to the winning try and failing to penalise the French in the second half.

Williams went public about Barnes after the 20-18 loss, describing his decision not to penalise the French as “bullshit” and members of the public defaced Wayne Barnes Wikipedia entry threatening to kill him.

Williams answered “No” and “No” when asked if Barnes had been a discussion point during the build-up to the Test which is the first in the All Blacks’ Grand Slam attempt.

Mealamu who is standing in for regular captain McCaw, was more forthcoming but only slightly.

“We can’t control the referees, there hasn’t been any talk in the camp,” Mealamu who will become the All Blacks’ 63rd captain, told NZPA.

Coach Henry also avoided the Barnes issue this week saying that he had analysed a couple of the Barnes’ recent performances without issuing an appraisal.

The pair had also “exchanged pleasantries” in Cape Town after the All Blacks Tri-Nations test with South Africa in August.

Scotland have been more talkative about Barnes’ involvement, giving the official their endorsement.

Coach Frank Hadden expressed confidence in Barnes after a discussion with International Rugby Board referees boss Paddy O’Brien while Scottish captain Mike Blair doubted the referee would be an issue.

“I don’t think it’ll be a factor,” he said.

“I know Wayne relatively well through international and European games and I don’t think it’s something that will be playing on anyone’s minds too much.

“They know how hard the referee’s job is.

“Invariably they’ll be some mistakes he’ll make it a game but it’s not something we’ll be too worried about.”

However, Blair agreed the tackle area was likely to be hard to fathom.

“The breakdown is a relatively hard area to referee, there’s always going to be someone who’s a little bit disappointed with how it’s refereed,” Blair said.

“The players just have to get on with the game, what will be, will be.”

Henry also sympathised with the plight of referees but said the ruck could be ruled effectively, citing last weekend’s Bledisloe Cup test.

“The interpretation at the breakdown was refereed well in Hong Kong,” he said.

“That is, the tackler has to get away from the ball, so he tackles and has to get on his feet. He can’t impede the ball.

“If the referee concentrates on that factor first most of our problems at the breakdown will be alleviated.

“Then he needs to look at the next guys arriving and if they arrive through the gate and they stay on their feet. I realise it’s a hard area to referee because there’s a lot of bodies being fired in there in a very short period of time.

“But if he’s got a very clear vision of what’s required there it works. It worked at the weekend and both sides got reasonably quick ball.”

In stark contrast with Henry, Australia were very annoyed about the performance of Alan Lewis last Saturday and have issued a complaint to O’Brien about Lewis as they were on the wrong end of a 5-11 penalty count and he also missed a forward pass leading to McCaw’s try which won the match for the All Blacks.

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