Dis­puted calls show why the game needs two ref­er­ees

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - JONATHAN KA­PLAN

For quite some time I have thought the game of rugby union is be­com­ing too dif­fi­cult for one per­son to ref­eree. The laws are too com­plex and it is not pos­si­ble for one per­son to see ev­ery­thing that goes on. This match was an ex­am­ple of just how dif­fi­cult it is for the of­fi­cials. I thought my fel­low South African,

Mar­ius van der Westhuizen, had a de­cent game, but there were two key de­ci­sions which are wor­thy of dis­cus­sion.

The first was the yel­low card awarded against Joaquin Tu­culet for his aerial chal­lenge on Mike Brown that caused the Eng­land full-back to leave the field in­jured. Twit­ter lit up im­me­di­ately and there were two clear opin­ions – some thought it was a red-card of­fence, and oth­ers thought a yel­low was harsh and that the Ar­gen­tine had done noth­ing wrong. The range of opin­ion showed just how dif­fi­cult a call it was to get right.

I think Mar­ius got it spot on. There had to be some sanc­tion be­cause Tu­culet did not get the ball and caused Brown to fall awk­wardly. A card was in­evitable. Mar­ius will have been ask­ing him­self whether Tu­culet was in a re­al­is­tic po­si­tion to catch the ball – with a red card pos­si­ble if he was not when he made the chal­lenge. As Tu­culet ac­tu­ally touched the ball and al­most gained pos­ses­sion as he and Brown fell to ground, he clearly was.

Mar­ius would then have looked at the out­come of the chal­lenge.

In­ter­est­ingly he said that Brown fell on his shoul­der. But if Mar­ius had said Brown had fallen on his head then he would have had to send Tu­culet off be­cause the law is now out­come­based, rather than in­tent-based.

I don’t like that be­cause it means you can have two iden­ti­cal aerial chal­lenges and two very dif­fer­ent out­comes, de­pend­ing on how the player falls.

The law about the for­ward pass can also lead to con­jec­ture, as we saw in the lead-up to Eng­land’s sec­ond try. Henry Slade’s pass to Semesa Roko­duguni clearly went for­ward in the air, and Ar­gentina ap­pealed im­me­di­ately. Mar­ius awarded it, and again he was per­fectly right to do so be­cause Slade’s hands “went back­wards” as he re­leased the ball. That law is de­signed to recog­nise that, due to mo­men­tum, many passes will go for­ward de­spite the player not in­tend­ing to make a for­ward pass. If a player’s hands “go back­wards” then it is not a for­ward pass, even if the pass goes for­ward.

Con­fused? You’re not the only one. I would pre­fer an out­come-based law in this in­stance – if the pass is caught fur­ther for­ward than where it was re­leased then play should be brought back.

As the law stands we will al­ways get this type of con­jec­ture which I think could be sim­pli­fied within the law. Thank­fully, I have heard ru­mours that World Rugby may look at sim­pli­fy­ing the law book, which I wel­come.

There are too many shades of grey, with too many de­ci­sions ar­guable. I also think hav­ing two ref­er­ees would help.

Play­ers would know they can get away with less be­cause key de­ci­sion mak­ers would be ac­tive and closer to the ac­tion, and the of­fi­cials could work as a team to help each other and dis­cuss the big calls.

Right now we are ask­ing too much of ref­er­ees, and the two big calls Mar­ius had to make yes­ter­day showed how tough it is.

He had a fine game, as I thought he would, but it’s a really dif­fi­cult job and I hope we do more to help the man – or woman – in the mid­dle.

Con­tro­ver­sial call: Joaquin Tu­culet was sin-binned for this aerial chal­lenge on Mike Brown

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