The Rugby Paper
Consistent refereeing is priority for World Rugby
When we watch ‘our’ team play, we obviously want them to win, but sometimes the opposition are just better than us. Most of us can live with those defeats, unless we feel that ‘we wuz robbed’. When that happens, it’s generally the referee and his colleagues that get the blame.
For too long differing interpretations across the three leagues has been a blot on northern hemisphere rugby, and when you look south you get even more variety. In this, of course, World Rugby is culpable – what is its purpose if not to ensure that there is a common set of laws, and they’re consistently applied?
Having binge-watched the European games last weekend, it was clear there is a lack of consistency, and also that there are some peculiar decisions being made, and at the heart of that there is a simple and unarguable fact: there is a shortage of top-class referees in Europe.
One example of many over was the Scarlets’ Jake Ball’s clear-out of Sale’s Faf de Klerk. There was a Twitter-storm in the fola
lowing days, with a clip of the incident there for all to see – the vast majority of viewers felt there was clear foul play, a view shared by the commentators and pundits. However, the referee, Mathieu Raynal, and his TMO had a chat, but it was all about whether the ball was out – they decided it was, and therefore Ball was entitled to go for De Klerk.
There appeared to be no discussion about the legality of the hit! It is certain that if the incident had happened in the Premiership, there would have been an analytical review. I think most people believed Ball would be cited for his actions, but he wasn’t, and that’s the
worst aspect of the incident.
Everyone is coming to terms with the necessary changes to the way the tackle is being refereed, players, coaches and fans alike, and as paying customers what we want is to feel there is consistency, and that our team gets a fair crack of the whip. Ball should have been cited so that there was a proper review of what happened. If a panel found that there was no foul play then so be it – what is wrong is for the vast majority of fans to think that there was, and the officials ignored it.
The Bordeaux v Bristol match threw up another area of contention, with
the television coverage seemingly getting in the referee’s way. For too long we’ve suffered from the French broadcasters – and let’s not beat about the bush – cheating when it comes to showing replays. When there’s an incident that reflects badly on the home team, mysteriously it can be hard to get the proper replays. When, however it’s an offence potentially committed by the visiting team, it gets played repeatedly. We saw that happen several times during Bristol’s match, and the referee, Mike Adamson, was clearly frustrated about it. EPCR need to get a grip on this as it’s been happening for years, everyone knows it’s problem, but nothing has been done.
Joel Jutge has returned to World Rugby as their head of match officials, and his boss is Joe Schmidt – it should be top of their list to address the issue of consistency, and to make sure the broadcasters have to comply with a set of standards to ensure the refs get the proper degree of assistance, irrespective of which team’s actions are being reviewed.
Finally, a couple of rugby questions that should be asked. Why are the Welsh regions so bad? The national side has just become Six Nations champions, but the regions were destroyed in Europe. Welsh club rugby supporters are being shabbily treated by their Union which seems almost entirely international centric.
On January 9 the French government advised its clubs not to play cross-border matches, as there were 18,000 new Covid cases on average each day.
Last weekend it was OK for French clubs to travel to the UK and Ireland despite the seven-day average being over 35,000 cases each day! You really have to wonder about the level of common sense being displayed!