Coach Graham Henry has played down the All Blacks’ impending reacquaintance with the man blamed by many New Zealand rugby fans for their team’s premature demise at last year’s World Cup.
The NZPA reports that Englishman Wayne Barnes will be patrolling a touchline at Newlands in Cape Town as one of Australian referee Matt Goddard’s two assistants for the Tri-Nations test this weekend.
Henry said Barnes’ presence wouldn’t affect the All Blacks and there hadn’t been any additional edge to preparations this week.
“No, you can’t do anything about the things you can’t control,” he said.
“You just work on the things you can control and officials are something you can’t control. You just hope they have a good game.”
Asked if he was happy about Barnes’ appointment, Henry replied: “I’m happy to have anybody as an official.”
Barnes controlled the All Blacks’ quarter-final at Cardiff, where France pulled off an upset to hand New Zealand their earliest exit at a World Cup tournament.
But many New Zealand fans blamed his officiating, including a missed forward pass, for the defeat.
Even the New Zealand Rugby Union’s independent review of the World Cup failure pointed the finger partly at Barnes.
In June, lock Ali Williams’ reignited the issue by saying the amount of criticism heaped on Henry for what happened at Cardiff was over the top.
“Some of the ownership has to fall on us too, as the players,” Williams said.
“And you’ve got to look at the ref. Seventeen unawarded penalties, that’s bullshit.”
But England caretaker manager at the time, Rob Andrew, responded by backing his compatriot as one of the best referees around and said Williams’ outburst was indicative of New Zealand’s inability to get over the pain of successive World Cup disappointments.Tweet