Jaco was incredibly naive – but he should not be banned from World Cup
Official should have known his fun with supporters would look bad on social media
Jaco Peyper has been incredibly naive in posing for that photo with Welsh supporters, but I would be very disappointed and surprised if it ended his involvement at the World Cup. I doubt he will be but, regardless of whether he is sanctioned, I think this could be a watershed moment for how officials interact with fans.
As a referee, you are asked to pose for pictures all the time but, after the uproar caused by this incident, I fear officials will be far more likely to say no in the future. A lot of effort has been made to bridge the gap between match officials and supporters but, as we have seen, a request for a photo has provoked a storm of negativity. Referees do not want to seem aloof but, if I were still involved, I would definitely think twice now about joining a group of fans for a photo after taking charge of a big match.
Social media has changed the game for officials, as well as players, and maybe we cannot be as open as we have been previously, which I find a very sad development.
Yesterday, for example, I dug out a photo of me posing alongside the French mascot before they played the All Blacks in 1999, a game in which I was the touch judge. This was shortly before kick-off and it was not an issue in the slightest. I would definitely think twice before doing it now, however, which again I find quite sad.
That is not to say Jaco is in the right here – he has clearly tried to interact with the fans and have a joke with them, but he probably should not have posed with his elbow up. But, rather than punishing him, World Rugby should instead just have a quiet, informal chat to underline the fact he should be more careful and avoid those types of situations.
The shame is that it has led some to look at his performance in the Wales-france game in a parochial light, despite the fact that to my mind he refereed very well and got the major decisions correct. The red card for the elbow by Sebastien Vahaamahina – which he is mimicking in the photo – was about as blatant an offence as you can get. I also support his call that the ball did not clearly go forward after being ripped by Tomos Williams and collected by Justin Tipuric, leading directly to Ross Moriarty’s match-winning score.
All four officials from the quarter-finals did well and to my mind are still in the running to do the showpiece match in a fortnight, including Jaco if South Africa are not involved. Ultimately, Jaco is a good referee who has made a silly mistake that, sadly, could change how officials act in the future.
Bygone era: Jonathan Kaplan, then an official, with a France mascot in 1999