France claim winger Grosso injured in “illegal” tackle

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has defended his team against accusations of cheating and dangerous play after French winger Remy Grosso was seriously injured in a high tackle during Saturday’s first test at Eden Park.

Grosso, who scored France’s only try in a 52-11 defeat, was felled in a double tackle by All Blacks flanker Sam Cane and winger Ofa Tu’ungafasi during the second half of the match. He was rushed to hospital where he was treated for two facial fractures.

Neither Cane, who struck Grosso with a swinging arm, nor Tu’ungafasi, who hit the winger with his shoulder, were shown yellow cards by England referee Luke Pearce who awarded a penalty against New Zealand. Minutes earlier Pearce sin-binned French lock Paul Gabrillagues for an alleged high tackle on New Zealand center Ryan Crotty.

Replays showed Gabrillagues’ tackle was around the chest and did not merit a yellow card and the incidents have revived claims the All Blacks benefit from a double standard by referees who treat their offenses more leniently than those of opponents.

New Zealand scored two tries in the 10 minutes Gabrillagues was absent to break a 11-11 deadlock and to take a 25-11 lead. They went on to score seven tries and 44 points in the second half after trailing 11-8 at halftime.

France coach Jacques Brunel said the tackle in which Grosso was injured was illegal.

”His injury is quite serious and it arrived in a dangerous and illegal way,” Brunel said. He also questioned the yellow card against Gabrillagues.

”The yellow card was key,” Brunel said. ”It was very hard to fight with the All Blacks after that.”

Hansen disputed that the tackle on Grosso was illegal or dangerous.

”Sammy made the tackle and Ofa ended up accidentally hitting him in the face with his shoulder,” he said. ”There’s no intention to hurt him.

”All three got head knocks. Sam got an elbow to the face from the French guy and he might have got Ofa’s head as well, so Ofa was causing a bit of carnage. When the game is fluid like it is and players change their angle late and you’ve committed … it’s difficult to get out of the way. So it was accidental.”

Hansen said the All Blacks were used to being called cheats, mostly by beaten opponents.

”We have been called cheats for 100 years haven’t we?” he said. ”If you keep winning, people will find reasons I suppose.”