How might scars over World Rugby laws be healed? Wales vs Australia report

How might scars over World Rugby laws be healed?

The Wales versus Australia match resulted in a narrow win for the hosts. Yet the fallout from ‘scars’ on World Rugby laws and interpretations will take a mild winter to heal.

Wales hand in a ‘two wins from four’ scorecard for the Autumn Nations Series, which is probably about par. Due to player unavailability and injuries, Wayne Pivac got to try out some different combinations and personnel. It does have the feel of a period of transition. Raising more questions than answers, like the obvious – how might Wales perform in the Six Nations at the beginning of next year? and will they be completely over their injury crisis?

This article will look at some of the talking points of Wales versus Australia.

How might scars over World Rugby laws be healed?

Again, Wales didn’t fire on all cylinders. However, they beat the side that was in front of them. Australia is a bit like Wales in some respects. A quality side yet short of what’s required to challenge at the very top.

Wales 29 – Tries: Elias, Tompkins; Conversions: Biggar (2); Biggar (3), Priestland
Australia 28 – Tries: Kellaway, White, Daugunu; Cons: O’Connor (2); Pens: O’Connor (2), Beale.

This game was dominated by several controversial referee calls which we will get into. For Welsh fans, there was a nice moment at the death though, when Rhys Priestland slotted the game’s winning penalty and was mobbed by his teammates.

TMO calls a real scar on Wales vs Australia

There could be no qualms over the first-half sending off of Rob Valentini. Whether accidental or not, going high, resulting in contact to the opponent’s head in a tackle will result in a sending off ‘nine times out of ten’. The two big decisions in the second half are what will cause the most debate. Dave Rennie, the Wallabies coach grumbled in a post match interview that the officiating was, “horrendous”. The two incidents in question were: Nick Tompkins try which was allowed to stand and the issuing of a yellow and not a red card to the replacement prop Gareth Thomas for a dangerous clear out tackle.

For the Nick Tompkins try, those backing the decision say the ball went backwards so it can’t be a knock-on. However, was it a genuine attempt at an interception? If the ball was simply swatted away then it doesn’t it matter if the ball went backwards or not. Whatever the case, the Australian players stopped and Tompkins was able to run unimpeded for a score.

What gave this ruling even more spice was that Kurtley Beale had been sin-binned earlier for a similar situation. The only difference being that it was [interpreted] as a clear knock-on.

Repeated examples of where World Rugby laws influence Test rugby

Gareth Thomas could count himself lucky that his card was only yellow and not red. The replacement prop cleared out Allan Alaalatoa recklessly and away from the ball. Others have been given their marching orders for an offense such as this. Happily, Alaalatoa wasn’t injured. This highlights the issue of consistency in the application of the laws by the officiating team in charge.

There absolutely needs to be consistency between both hemispheres’ officials on the key calls. The exchange of World Rugby nominated referees across the globe has improved the standard yet, each time there are examples, some rule on their experiences, others are influenced by the TMO.

So to the question posed, ‘How might the scars over World Rugby laws be healed’? There is plenty to ponder. Rassie Erasmus is now serving a ban over his comments on officiating in an online video during the Lions tour. For what it’s worth there was something in what was said, and it was right to take a risk in saying it. If attempts to speak with the officials along proper channels about a lack of consistency, or fairness in decisions is stymied. What other options, other than staying silent are available?

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What was regrettable about the situation was that the referee in question, Nic Berry suffered what he perceived as a character assassination. Hopefully, he will go on to have a distinguished career.

Healing the scars might take some ‘fresh thinking’

The answer is to have a broader and more diverse group of people officiating, and also to be part of World Rugby’s policy-making team.

This must include ex-players from all nations and those who have played at the very highest level. One potential obstacle in the road is the lack of glamour associated with being an official. The majority recognizes this but, all need to realize is ‘what a difficult and sometimes thankless task refereeing is’.

Who wouldn’t like to see a Sam Warburton, or a Bryan Habana making the TMO calls? Or even a Rassie Erasmus (once he has served his ban) as a World Rugby chairman? Everyone likes a redemption story. As a theory, could Rassie share his passion and love for rugby with the rest of the world?

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The final point to consider is, what a shame that Augustine Pichot did not get the World Rugby chairman job in 2020. This is not meant to be a hatchet piece on Bill Beaumont (a legend and great servant of the game) but again, it showed that youth, and a relatively recent playing career were still not enough credentials against an establishment. That someone whose origins are away from the traditional big rugby-playing countries could likely have been a winner.

It could have brought fresh ideas and impetus to the game we know and love.


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