The Japanese had no idea when they won the bid to host the 2019 World Cup that they would, in fact, be running two tournaments.
There’s the real one where real things happen like the All Blacks beat South Africa fair and square.
And then there is the fake news World Cup which is playing out on social media where all sorts of foul play and dastardly acts are taking place.
In the social media World Cup, the All Blacks are cheats, thugs and the most despicable team at the tournament.
In this alternative World Cup, All Blacks captain Kieran Read supposedly made an illegal head-high challenge on Springboks flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit that went unnoticed by the officials in the first minute of their pool clash.
Joe Moody supposedly clunked his elbow into the back of Malcolm Marx’s head in the fake news tournament and no doubt there will be more bogus updates to come.
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At the social media World Cup, the All Blacks have got away with murder – almost literally – and confirmed to inhabitants of this parallel universe what they have long known – that New Zealand cross any and every boundary to get the job done.
The All Blacks are winning friends in the real World Cup and widely viewed as champions-in-waiting. But in the other tournament, they win only scorn and enemies.
But this fictitious world where video footage is slowed down and focused on micro exchanges is not a place where truth can be found or revelations taken seriously.
It’s the domain of the bitter and the sad – the internet’s angriest trolls live here, banging on their bridge in the hope someone will notice they are there.
The truth about the All Blacks’ performance at Yokohama is that it was one of their most disciplined and controlled of the last five years.
And not by chance either. They have come to Japan determined to not give away cheap penalties and more importantly, to avoid being put in any situation that could persuade a referee to show a yellow or red card.
The focus on discipline has been intense. It has been deliberate and it has been lengthy, partly because it has been an area of weakness in recent times, but partly because the scrutiny at a World Cup is next level.
In the real World Cup, the All Blacks conceded just four penalties against South Africa and did nothing to paint a picture in the minds of the officials that they were throwing themselves about recklessly.
It was a brutal match, but it was clean. It was classic, physical rugby from both sides and when all 46 players gathered after the final whistle, there wasn’t anyone carrying a sense of grievance or harbouring any grudge about off the ball nonsense or foul play antics.
Players know when an opponent has been tough but fair and when they have been on the wrong side of acceptable.
It’s obvious when a team has little care for discipline; when the mindset is overly aggressive, bordering on rash.
A team out of control is easily spotted. There are tell-tale signs and on Saturday there was nothing. No scuffles off the ball, no lingering of the tight five after set-pieces to see if any cheap can shots could be thrown and no whining to the referee.
There was not a hint of there being anything untoward from either team, which is why the social media tournament is so at odds with the real one.
The social media take is that the officials were asleep at the wheel – blind to the unmitigated filth around them.
Yet in the real tournament there was just one act missed – or inaccurately punished – which was the professional foul by Springboks wing Makazole Mapimpi halfway through the first half that should have been a yellow card and penalty try.
But that was the only genuine miss by the officials. That was the only moment worth highlighting in a post-match debrief as something that the referee got wrong and which had a material impact on the outcome of the game.
The rest is just nonsense. The rest is a tedious manipulation that says everything about those who spend hours trawling for this sort of stuff and nothing about the alleged perpetrators.
The camera does lie in the social media World Cup. It does create the illusion of things happening that aren’t.
It can be made to look like there is an incident worthy of investigation at almost every collision and it can be used to support any agenda – malicious, noble or otherwise.
This first became apparent at the last World Cup after the All Blacks beat South Africa in the semifinal.
Footage appeared a few days later supposedly showing captain Richie McCaw crash his shoulder into the head of Francois Louw as he ran past.
It created a storm on Twitter but World Rugby kicked it for touch, saying it was bogus – an illusion created by the angle of the camera.
The fake news tournament never lacks drama, but it lacks truth, perspective and context and without those qualities, it is empty and exhausting and destined to produce no winners.
Those who take sport seriously should boycott it.
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Publish date : 2019-09-23 22:45:31