WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A biography of former All Blacks coach Graham Henry reveals he suspected match-fixing after his team's shock loss to France in the quarterfinals of the 2007 World Cup and urged the New Zealand Rugby Union to press for an international inquiry.
In Graham Henry: Final Word, due to be published this week, biographer Bob Howitt says Henry briefly considered match-fixing as the only explanation for the All Blacks' 20-18 defeat.
Henry says when he analyzed the match he found English referee Wayne Barnes had awarded New Zealand only two penalties, although he counted more than 40 potential offences committed by France. France was also awarded a try from a forward pass.
Henry says he found it “incomprehensible” that rugby had no procedures in place to investigate “bizarre” results in major matches.
“He knew if a comparable situation had occurred in other sports, it would be investigated,” Howitt writes. “But there existed a blissful purity about rugby, or at least that's how everyone wanted to perceive it. It wasn't politically correct to even suggest the match officials might have favored one team.”
Henry has frequently answered questions about the 2007
quarterfinal, which almost cost him his job as All Blacks coach. But he had never previously revealed his suspicions about match-fixing.
Howitt says Henry, who went on to lead New Zealand to victory at the 2011 World Cup, was so shocked at what he found when he analyzed the 2007 match that he became physically sick.
Henry studied video of the match that provided three different angles and offered statistical breakdowns of lineouts, scrums, penalties, tackle counts, territory and possession.
He found the All Blacks had an overwhelming 73 percent territorial advantage, won 166 rucks to 42 and made only 73 tackles in comparison to France's 331.
Yet, New Zealand did not receive a single penalty in the last 50 minutes of the match. Henry says his final analysis suggested Barnes missed 40 penalty infringements by France and that if New Zealand had been awarded the most obvious of those penalties, the final score could been 42-3 or 42-6.
The All Blacks coach took his concerns to the New Zealand Rugby Union.
“He told them he believed, given the graphic video evidence available, that the NZRU should pressure the International Rugby Board to institute an inquiry,” Howitt writes. “He also emphasized that it was incomprehensible that the IRB did not have strategies in place to investigate bizarre matches. And when it came to bizarre, this World Cup quarterfinal was an absolute doozy.
“As far as Graham was concerned, the major reason the All Blacks had lost was not because of conditioning or rotation policies or decisions by his captain, but purely and simply because the officials had refereed only one team, to a degree unprecedented in the history of the sport.” –Sapa-AP