As an avid rugby fan I am always very careful about criticising referees and not letting football culture bridge across into what truly is the beautiful game; but in my own opinion, I think now it has gone too far and had too much of an effect on the biggest stage of all, the world cup.
The level of in-consitantcy and at times, I’m sorry to say, sheer incompetence at the elite level of the game is just not acceptable. This six week period was meant to be, and has been a show case of rugby, the best from all around the world coming together. From a personal view point it has been great to see the standards begin to level out from all rugby nations. Where standard have slipped is with the man with the Whistle.
Firstly, the use of the TMO, though has slowed the game down slightly, was meant to bring more fairness into the game; and though it has gone someway to doing this, it has no succeeded. In my own opinion, this is mostly because different referees use it in different ways, and therefore it is not a level playing field. Unrolling hawk-eye and the new TMO system on a trial basis at the world cup, was probably not the place to do it, a good idea from world rugby, but maybe not one entry thought through. Possibly the most upsetting part of the failure of this technology input, is that, when it appears most needed, it seems to go missing.
My next point is how differently ref’s adjudicate over a deliberate knock on, when going for an interception. Im going to highlight two key decisions both involving Australia. One being from that game against England at Twickenham. Bernard Foley attempts an interception in a clear and obvious try scoring opportunity for England, where there was a 3-1 over lap and an easy try. The interception attempt failed and there was not even a penalty award, just a scrum. In today’s game, the quarter final, Sean Maitland was sin binned for an attempted interception in which there was not even a clear try scoring opportunity, had the ball gone past him to the winger he would have been tackled and put into touch. So why in this situation was a game changing yellow card handed out, but in a much clearer try scoring opportunity, it was merely a scrum? The interception is a great weapon if you can pull it off, but at this rate it will be officiated out the game as players will be fearful of being sin binned should it not come off. That ten minutes without there winger proved crucial for Scotland as moments later the Australians crossed for a try down that wing.
The way the citing office works and the length of bans handed out also surely needs to be addressed. How is it Sean O’Brien only receive a one match ban for a blatant strike on an opponent, but Alessana Tuilgai received five matches for running into someone? I think that question speaks for its self in out lining how ridiculous the system is.
I would also like to question how top referees miss such blatant acts of foul play. I will call two to attention, the above mentioned punch from O’Brien and the shoulder charge direct tot he head of Mike Brown from Michael Hooper. These are 2 offences that both merit red cards, have happened in clear and open play, and have both been missed by officials and allowed two players to continue in the game that had performances that changed the match and swung it in the direction of their team! This shouldn’t be allowed to slip under the radar, also, as both were clearly red card offences, the citing commissioner should have given them a minimum 3 game suspension each. As opposed to a single game.
Too conclude, I believe there is too much ambiguity and a distinct lack of clarity over the rules and regulations regarding the TMO and just the clear officiating of the game. This world cup has been marred already by a few disgraceful decisions, which is, unfortunately, what people are talking about and not the incredibly high standard of rugby we have all been treated too. This issue needs resolving so that hopefully, sooner rather then later, we can all focus on the more positive aspects of what is an incredible sport, possibly, the best one in the world.