The Last Game Between Ireland & The All Blacks Changed Rugby Forever


Ireland and the All Blacks will face off this weekend at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin for the first time since they met in the same venue back in 2016.

That game will forever be remembered as one of the most brutal Test matches we’ve ever seen in the professional era, and ended up completely changing the landscape of rugby forever.

The game was so physical that Ireland ended up losing three players inside 25 minutes and not long after World Rugby were forced to make adjustments to the laws, introducing revises sanctions just one week after the game.

Let’s take a look at the three big challenges in that game and what kind of sanction they would merit currently. First up is Sam Cane’s hit on Robbie Henshaw after just ten minutes that resulted in the Irishman suffering a concussion and being stretchered off the pitch.

Cane quite clearly hits Henshaw with a shoulder into the head with force. We’ve seen red cards for much less this season (Danny Cipriani on Rory Scannell for one), yet the All Black flanker wasn’t even yellow carded. A clear red card in the modern game. And somehow, he was cleared by the citing commission.

Next is this no-arms hit on CJ Stander by Israel Dagg. The fullback makes no attempt to wrap with his arms and hits Stander with a brutal shoulder onto the top of his head, resulting in another concussion. Sanction – red card.  The incident wasn’t cited either.

And then there’s the worst one of them all – Malakai Fekitoa’s decapitating tackle on Simon Zebo. Somehow the centre escaped with just a yellow card for the horrific challenge. A citing commission later ruled it was a red card offence and he received a ban. But in no way would he escape a with just a yellow card on the field in this day and age.

Johnny Sexton was asked about the game this week and he agreed it “changed a lot, going forward.”

“That one probably went over the edge, didn’t it?” Sexton said.

“I think that game changed a lot, going forward.”

“That was a massive moment where high tackles suddenly became what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable.

“After that, I feel that things changed and you wouldn’t get away with that now.”

Let’s hope not. The last thing we want to see this weekend is a game erupt into that kind of illegal physicality. Hopefully we’ll never see the likes of it again. We want to see the two best teams in world take each other on – fairly.