NZ want O'Driscoll injury laid to rest


Wellington - All Blacks coach Graham Henry said on Wednesday it was time to move on, after newly-released amateur video footage reignited the controversy over the spear tackle that ended Brian O'Driscoll's Lions tour.

Meanwhile, the International Rugby Board (IRB) has signalled that it will launch a crackdown on spear tackles, with offenders facing the prospect of a six-month ban.

O'Driscoll, the Lions skipper, lasted barely a minute of the first Test against New Zealand in June after being upended by rival captain Tana Umaga and hooker Keven Mealamu.

He suffered a dislocated shoulder and played no further part in a series won by the All Blacks 3-0.

The video footage, shot from the opposite side of the ground to television pictures, indicated that it was Mealamu who initiated the tackle.

Henry said the All Blacks sympathised with O'Driscoll, but neither Umaga nor Mealamu, who are both in the 35-strong All Blacks squad leaving Thursday for a Grand Slam tour of Britain and Ireland, meant to injure the Irish centre.

"Quite frankly, I just think it's time we moved on," he said.

"Our guys will be concentrating on playing rugby to the best of their ability and they won't be concentrating on this issue. All those things have been said before. We can't say anymore."

Henry this week said Umaga would miss one of the All Blacks' first two Tests, which are against Wales and Ireland.

That means Umaga could miss facing a potential Irish backlash at Lansdowne Road.

If that were the case, tour vice-captain Richie McCaw would be in line to lead the side instead, and the flanker echoed his coach's view that the O'Driscoll incident should be consigned to history.

"We don't go out to hurt people and it was a shame it happened to him," he said.

"There's a lot of incidents in rugby where guys have injuries. It's all very well to be disappointed, but sometimes you have to let it go."

IRB head of communications Greg Thomas said the new video footage showed that the challenge on O'Driscoll was "unacceptably dangerous".

"We are instructing referees to deal with this type of offence appropriately," he told The Guardian newspaper.

The laws of rugby make no mention of spear-tackling and there is a moratorium on law changes until after the 2007 World Cup but there is provision in the rules for players who commit such an offence.

"Our instruction is that it is a dangerous tackle and anyone found guilty of it should be dealt with at the higher end of the tariff - that is to say they should be suspended for three to six months," Thomas said.


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