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All Blacks branded cheats after France card row

France’s Kevin Gourdon has raised temperatures ahead of the second Test against the All Blacks. © AFP / MICHAEL BRADLEY

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Jun 14 – France backrower Kevin Gourdon called the All Blacks cheats on Thursday and said they were treated leniently by referees after they escaped punishment over a contentious incident in last week’s first Test.

Gourdon’s outburst, two days before the second Test in Wellington, follows condemnation of World Rugby’s decision not to hand out further punishment over a tackle in which French wing Remy Grosso suffered two facial fractures.

All Blacks flanker Sam Cane was penalised on the field for a high shot on Grosso, while prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi escaped punishment for his role in the head-high collision with World Rugby saying his role fell “just short” of the red card threshold.

Immediately after the Test, won by New Zealand 52-11, French coach Jacque Brunel described the double hit as “dangerous” and “illegal” but later softened his stance, saying the collision was probably accidental.

But World Rugby vice chairman Agustin Pichot attached the words “should be cited (in) my view” to a tweet showing video of the tackle, which has ended Grosso’s tour.

A former top referee, England’s Rob Debney, wrote in The Times that officials’ leniency towards the All Blacks “exists on a subconscious level. The accountability for taking a decision against them, the scrutiny it comes under compared with other teams, is incredible.”

Gourdon said the All Blacks tended to get the rub of the green from referees “because they win all their games”.

The All Blacks “cheat, of course, but it’s certainly related to the fact they play good rugby… which has a positive effect on the referees”, added the flanker.

– Sin-binning not ‘significant’ –

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All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster dismissed the cheating allegations, and denied the world champions and number one Test team received any favouritism from officials.

“I think if you look at the penalty counts (and) yellow cards last year, we were one of the top yellow-carded teams in the world so I’m not sure how this ‘soft on us’ comes to fruition,” he said.

Foster also reiterated that the All Blacks did not agree with the yellow card handed out to France lock Paul Gabrillagues last week for a tackle on Ryan Crotty.

“I think we’ve been pretty open and honest about how we interpreted last week,” said Foster.

“We thought they were a little bit unlucky with their yellow card; it was one of those marginal ones. Was it up there? Yes it was. Was it significant? Probably not.”

Cane’s tackle on Grosso was high, for which he was penalised at the time.

“The question is: was it worthy of a yellow card? And, I guess, between a referee and an independent citing commissioner, they’ve said no. So we’ve just got to take the emotion out of it,” Foster said.

Brunel has made five changes for the second Test with Gourdon the only loose forward to survive from the first Test hiding, although he has been moved from the flank to the back row.

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