What’s this, then?
Johnathan Kaplan, ahead of an All Blacks test, is commenting on the “challenges” of controlling those tests, going so far as the warn match officials to be on the lookout for illegal New Zealand tactics in the upcoming Lions series.
Does this sound to anyone as though Kaplan is advising the booked officials to tilt the calls in favour of the Lions?
More importantly, did Kaplan participate in a plot with the Russians to influence the outcome of the series?
Widely regarded as the most experienced ref in the world of rugby, Kaplan should know better than to speak to rules violations ahead of any match or series.
Kaplan was on record in no less reputable source than the London Telegraph, detailing the All Blacks tactics at the breakdown and off-the-ball.
Kaplan retired in 2013 as the record holder for officiating the most tests, with 70 to his credit. He says that there were five key areas where the officials for the upcoming series must be particularly vigilant, focusing on two, which he said made officiating Lions Tests in New Zealand especially difficult.
In his column in the Telegraph, he said, “New Zealand are masters of the subtle nuances which often determine the difference between winning and losing. I refereed the All Blacks 18 times, often in tough encounters where they invariably found a way to get over the line. It helps a lot to have a rugby culture ingrained in their youth and I believe they have the most developed philosophy on the game, included in which is their physical conditioning, which allows them to up the tempo deep into the sharp end of matches.”
We do not know that having an ingrained rugby culture in the youth who go on to play for the All Blacks is an issue for Kaplan, but he did conclude his weird pre-series opining with the admission that test squads are fond of mucking about with the letter of the law.
In the case of the All Blacks, Kaplan said that “flooding the breakdown” is where a close eye must be kept on Steve Hansen’s men.