Rugby

Pressure increases on Rugby World Cup referees

by Rich Freeman

Kyodo

Japan assistant coach Tony Brown weighed in on the latest referee controversy Wednesday when he asked reporters at the Brave Blossoms hotel if they had heard any feedback following the previous night’s game between Samoa and Russia.

On Tuesday, just hours after Rugby World Cup organizers had admitted the standard of officiating at the World Cup was “not consistently of the standards set by World Rugby and themselves,” referee Romain Poite once again had players, coaches and fans questioning what exactly constitutes a red card during the Pool A game at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium.

Poite opted to give only yellow cards to Samoa’s Rey Lee-Lo and hooker Motu Matu’u for high tackles, forcing Brown and many others to question what is going on.

“There were two brutal tackles that should have been red cards and a punch to the head that did not get noticed. Has anyone heard any feedback?” Brown asked Wednesday at the team hotel.

An hour or two later he got the update as World Rugby announced Lee-Lo and Matu’u had been cited for acts of foul play contrary to Law 9.13 (dangerous high tackle), while Samoa wing Ed Fidow had received a Citing Commissioner Warning for an act of foul play contrary to Law 9.12 (punching or striking).

On Tuesday, World Rugby had put out a statement saying: “Elite match officials are required to make decisions in complex, high-pressure situations and there have been initial challenges with the use of technology and team communication, which have impacted decision-making. These are already being addressed by the team of 23 match officials to enhance consistency.”

“Given this proactive approach, a strong team ethic and a superb support structure, World Rugby has every confidence in the team to ensure that Rugby World Cup 2019 delivers the highest levels of accurate, clear and consistent decision-making.”

Even before the release of the statement, Japan scrum coach Shin Hasegawa had his own opinion on the officials, saying earlier this week, “Not all referees are the same so we have to adapt.”

Angus Gardner takes charge of Saturday’s game against Ireland and the Australian is well known to the Japan coaching staff, having been involved in a number of Sunwolves games.

“If he referees as usual that will be fine,” Hasegawa said. “But we need to have a Plan A and B and adapt to any situation.”

On Wednesday, World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper defended the governing body’s public criticism of the officials.

“It just shows the world has moved on,” he told reporters in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, ahead of the Uruguay vs. Fiji game on Wednesday afternoon.

“When things are obvious to people you have to acknowledge certain things and people are being transparent about it.”

“I don’t think we are trying to put more pressure on the referees, we are working with them behind the scenes. It was the first weekend, there are some teething issues in that first weekend around technology and coordination and communication flows between the three entities, the TMOs, referees and Hawk-Eye and so on.”

“We thought it was important to acknowledge that, there was some chatter but I think it is good for a federation to come out and say we acknowledge that standards were not as high as they could have been.”

“There was a collective feeling that it was a time to acknowledge that things can be better and we are going to work hard to make them better.”

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