BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) –
The All Blacks are annoyed at the continuing targeting of skipper Richie McCaw, with coach Steve Hansen describing as a “cheap shot” an incident in the weekend drawn Bledisloe Test.
The injury-hit Australians held the World Cup champions to an 18-18 draw in Brisbane, but their blindside flanker Scott Higginbotham was subsequently cited for punching or striking McCaw in the 26th minute of the game.
Television replays showed Higginbotham appearing first to knee McCaw in the head and then to head-butt the All Blacks skipper on the ground.
Hansen was irritated when asked at the post-match press conference Saturday whether he had seen the incident.
“I saw the head butt. It was another cheap shot on Richie … he seems to get them every week, but everyone seems to miss them,” Hansen said.
McCaw, who was kneed in the head by Quade Cooper in Brisbane 14 months ago with the Wallaby fly-half exonerated at a subsequent judicial hearing, said he was annoyed by the attentions of Higginbotham.
“It annoyed me at the time but I suppose it was on TV and it will get dealt with, I guess,” McCaw told reporters.
“It gets a bit frustrating, at times, those sort of things, but there’s nothing you can do about it, someone else will deal with that.”
When asked further about the Higginbotham incident, Hansen flared: “You people (media) see it week in, week out, for yourselves.
“And instead of asking us to talk about it I ask you to say actually what do you think? If you don’t think it’s right, then write that.
“All we can say is that we saw it, it was a cheap shot, and then hope that the judiciary will sort it out. If they don’t then we’ll just get on and have another game next week.”
Springbok prop Dean Greyling was suspended for two weeks for a forearm smash to McCaw’s face during their Rugby Championship match in Dunedin last month.
Hansen was disappointed only to have drawn with Australia to end their 16-match unbeaten run.
But he praised McCaw’s decision to opt for a scrum after the fulltime siren and go after victory, rather than playing it safe and kicking the ball into touch to end the game.
“What we do take out of it is that to play as poorly as we did and still manage to show the character and tenacity to get a draw is pleasing,” he said.
“I thought it showed huge character to take a scrum after the (final) hooter and to actually get in a position to drop-kick a goal.
“Unfortunately this time DC (Dan Carter) missed it but we know it’s probably the hardest thing in the game to do to drop-kick a goal. I thought the character and composure to do that was marvellous.
“The character of the bloke (McCaw) is that he wants to win, a draw is not a win, so that’s something to be applauded. That’s the way we are and we gave ourselves a chance and didn’t quite finish it.”
New Zealand next play Scotland on November 11 in the first of four Tests in Europe next month.