The All Blacks commit acts of foul play on the rugby field at a rate only matched by England writes BEN STRANG AND ANDY FYERS for www.stuff.co.nz
Steve Hansen’s men have committed 50 penalised acts of foul play in 39 tier one rugby matches since August 2014.
England, by comparison, have committed 52 acts of foul play in 38 matches, making the two teams the most penalised teams when it comes to foul play.
By taking into account the amount of time teams are defending, when the majority of foul play penalties are conceded, the two teams commit an act of foul play every 13 minutes and 48 seconds on defence. The penalty data does not include the 2015 Rugby World Cup or the British and Irish Lions Tour.
Last week, the narrative in the All Blacks’ June series against France revolved around a dangerous tackles by Sam Cane and Ofa Tu’ungafasi, in which Frenchman Remy Grosso suffered two skull fractures.
Neither player was carded despite the incident looking worse than the moment Paul Gabrillagues was yellow carded for a tame high tackle earlier in the match.
Grosso, the victim of the chilling tackle, later said “if we do the same thing, we French get punished.”
It’s a bold claim by Grosso, and one that isn’t backed up by how France have been treated over the same period.
While the All Blacks are carded for every 6.3 foul play penalties they commit, which works out as one for every 86 minutes on defence, France have it easier.
They received a card for every 10 foul play offences since August 2014, including the red card given to Benjamin Fall on Saturday night in Wellington.
It takes France more than three hours and 15 minutes on defence to be awarded a card for foul play, despite them committing a foul play offence every 19 minutes and 36 seconds on defence.
The statistics don’t take into account the severity of a foul play penalty. They don’t differentiate between something that deserved a card or not, and what colour that card should have been.
For that reason, it’s impossible to say if a team has been unduly punished for their acts of foul play. It merely shows how frequently a team commits those acts.
If there were any teams with a case for being punished more harshly than the average, it would be Argentina or Australia.
Argentina received a card for every 2.75 foul play penalties they conceded, compared to 3.07 for Australia.
For every 48 minutes the two teams spent on defence, they received a yellow or red card for an act of foul play. That’s almost double the rate of New Zealand.
Scotland are an interesting case in that they concede the fewest foul play penalties of tier one nations, but have been carded at one of the highest rates.
Since August 2014, they committed only nine acts of foul play on a rugby field, resulting in three cards.
Ireland received the fewest cards for foul play offences, with just two in that time period.
When you take into account other cards, those cynical and professional offences the All Blacks often commit at the breakdown, for instance, New Zealand are carded every 28 minutes and 42 seconds on defence.
That is the second highest rate of tier one teams since August 2014, with Australia carded every 27 minutes and 48 seconds on defence. Argentina are third, with a card every 28 minutes and 54 seconds on defence.
If the All Blacks, then, aren’t getting special treatment from referees when they’re on defence, is their an All Blacks bias when they’re on attack?
Are referees subconsciously protecting the All Blacks, and penalising their opponents more than they otherwise would?
New Zealand’s opponents received the fewest cards of all tier one nations, with a card coming once in every 56 minutes the All Blacks were in possession. Their opponents were handed 12 cards in 39 matches, including two red cards.
At the other end of the spectrum, Argentina’s opponents were carded once every 30.2 minutes, with a total of 21 cards handed out.
There was, however, less tolerance for foul play against New Zealand compared to other nations.
While the All Blacks were victims of foul play less often than their opponents, with one foul play penalty every 29 minutes and 12 seconds, cards were handed out more frequently.
New Zealand’s opponents were carded once for every 3.29 foul play penalties they conceded. Ireland were next, with 4.27 foul play calls resulting in a card.
Australia, meanwhile, saw their opposition carded for acts of foul play once every 247 minutes of possession time, the least of tier one nations.