Tag Archives: Rugby World Cup

Wales see Red as Aussie Gold have Black night…

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After five intense weeks, 46 matches, 256 tries, 18 yellow cards and two controversial red cards, the Rugby World Cup is down to the very pointy end – and a re-run of the inaugural final from 1987.

Wales were heartbroken by their narrow 1 point loss to France following the 17th minute red card for Welsh skipper Sam Warburton by Irish referee Alain Rolland, which has caused some controversy.

In 2007, the IRB approved a Law clarification which essentially made it clear that tackles involving a player being lifted off the ground and tipped horizontally, and were then either forced or dropped to the ground, were illegal and constitute dangerous play.

The summary for possible sanction scenarios when a tackler horizontally lifts a player off the ground are:

1. The player is lifted and then forced or “speared” into the ground. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.
2. The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player’s safety. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.
3. For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles, it may be considered a penalty or yellow card is sufficient.

Referees have been instructed not to make decisions based on what they consider was the intention of the offending player, but based on an objective assessment (as per Law 10.4 (e)) of the circumstances of the tackle.

The difficulty for players, coaches, fans, and indeed referees, is that contextual judgement and materiality is ruled out.

Was it a dangerous tackle? Yes?
Was it cynical and deliberate? No.
Was it a yellow? Maybe.

It was a very cruel way to end what has been a great tournament for Wales who deserved to make the final and would undoubtedly have pushed the All Blacks further than France seem likely to do.

As for the All Blacks, they face France in a re-run of the first World Cup final (when they prevailed 29-9). A very one sided semi-final against the Tasman rivals from Australia failed to spark into life on a damp night in Auckland, and Quade Cooper struggled to ignite the Wallabies.

It wasn’t a free flowing game, despite a sparkling and powerful start by the ABs who scored a stunning try just 6 minutes in and threatened to run riot. Australia kept them at bay and they didn’t threaten the try line again – and were content with a workman-like and deserved victory to reach their third final.

That final will be managed by Craig Joubert who has had a magnificent World Cup and deserves his place behind the whistle on Sunday. By the time he blows the final whistle of the 2011 tournament, New Zealand should be crowned champions and send a nation into celebrations 24 years in the making.

Bye Bye Bryce..?

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International condemnation for Bryce Lawrence has continued to gather momentum and he has now been overlooked for the semi-finals, and seemingly the final, by the IRB. Pressure from rugby fans has also led to a Facebook campaign for action to be taken and Bryce Lawrence himself is reported to be considering quitting the game.

It says something about the way sport and media (and social media) has changed and referees are under far more scrutiny than ever before.

The fundamental difference between Bryce Lawrence’s performances and other refereeing mistakes (Wayne Barnes for example) is that on the whole other mistakes are just that – a blip in the game – and players/coaches/fans are mature enough to realise that their team made more mistakes that cost them the game than a refereeing blemish.

Bryce Lawrence has just looked out of his depth for the entire tournament (and in reality before it) and the IRB need to realise they made a mistake in appointing him.

Given the catalouge of issues that have gone before in his performances, from the Lions in 2009 to the recent Australia v Ireland World Cup pool match, it is no wonder that the pressure is beginning to take its toll.

Refereeing is more about the mental fitness than the physical – and Bryce has sadly demonstrated that his current approach is wrong – particularly compared to some of his contemporaries – Nigel Owens, Alain Rolland and Craig Joubert (who has been fantastic and could be a good bet to ref the final).

It would be sad if Bryce Lawrence quits all forms of the game – but it is probably right that the IRB take a view and reconsider his involvement at the highest level.

All referees have car crash games, where everything goes wrong, but Bryce is a metaphorical regular pile-up! You wouldn’t allow such incompetent drivers on the road and the IRB shouldn’t encourage the same from their elite.

Heimlich Maneuver in the Park

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With the waiting finally over the World Cup kicked off with an amazing ceremony in Auckland before the All Blacks took on Tonga on last Friday night.

What has been great about all the matches so far is that all the so called ‘minnows’ are anything but. The conditions have played there part – but the smaller nations have stepped up and significantly demonstrated that the gap is closing.

An upset is definitely on the cards. Other than the All Blacks obligatory choke! It seems that 24 years is too long to wait – and the pressure is mounting with Graham Henry rotating his team yet again.

The biggest talking point was over the officiating of the Wales v South Africa match – with the Welsh squad and management calling foul over a missed penalty kick.

A kick that missed. A kick that the replays showed as inconclusive – but appeared to have missed. A kick that THREE officials all agreed missed.

Lets not focus on the other two missed penalties, their try from a forward pass or the missed dropped goal in front of the posts. Wales smashed South Africa all over the park – but couldn’t seal the deal.

But rather than focus on their own short comings they are focusing on blaming the officials for not taking the action they are not able to take – and the action that if they did (by going to the TMO) – would have told them the kick missed!

Last weekend I had an irate coach very unhappy about a similar moment within the first half. A line out within their 22 that led to a driving maul and a crash over try.

The coach was furious – lambasting me for not noticing it was not straight. It was straight but that is irrelevant. On and on he went about parity and continuity.

I nodded and listened and then mischievously suggested it may not have been straight – a rare error from me on the day. But there were many errors and problems in the game. I offered to go as far as buying him a pint for every error he felt I made – in exchange for a pint for every mistake his team made.

He declined ruefully.

His team lost 66-0!

Dr Heimlich, I Presume?

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In only a few days’ time the first whistle will be blown (by George Clancy of Ireland) to start the first of forty-eight games in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The pressure is mounting on the hosts. They have suffered two consecutive defeats in the Tri-Nations, including the humiliating loss to Australia in the final round to see the trophy ripped from their seemingly firm grasp.

They are also attempting to secure the Web Ellis Trophy for only the second time, despite being favourites for practically every World Cup to date. They are also hosting the event in their own back yard so failure is not an option. With all this pressure the All Blacks must be feeling a little nervy.

With new injury concerns in the back row – with cover being provided by second row Sam Whitelock – and a nation out of love with Sonny Bill Williams they are already creating the platform from which to launch their excuses.

In a desperate attempt to boost morale (of club and country) and to avoid the ritual (and habitual) dismissal from the competition they have called in specialist medical cover from the famed Dr Heimlich.

Dr Heimlich, despite his age of 91, is not to be underestimated as a valuable asset to the aspiring 2011 All Blacks Squad. Whilst he may not be called upon until the knock out stages (although he may appear on 24 Sept in the All Blacks v France match) his intimate and expert knowledge of his ‘maneuverer’ may prevent them from choking this year. Only time will tell if this gamble by Graham Henry will pay dividends or simply another round of P45’s…..

The Jackson 10

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Whilst the All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup with a convincing win over the Wallabies, the real talking point was the appointment of Glen Jackson as Assistant Referee for his first international outing.

Jackson hung up his boots in 2010 after playing 130 matches for Saracens, and having played for Bay of Plenty and Chiefs before the North London side. He was a fantastic player, and whilst he represented New Zealand Maori, he was unfortunate not to get higher international honours. Well it appears that the NZRFU and IRB might make that dream come true – as a referee.

The game needs referees who have played at the highest levels, as they bring a greater understanding and empathy for the game – understanding the pressures the players and teams face on the biggest stage.

Also making a rapid return to international rugby was Kiwi bad boy Steve Walsh. Walsh who became notorious for his on and off field antics, which led to a ban during the 2003 World Cup and then led to him being effectively fired by the NZRFU and IRB after allegedly turning up to a conference intoxicated. Since then he has reformed and now represents Australia as a ref – and has been appointed to the 2011 World Cup, the rugby equivalent of Lazarus returned from the dead!

And whilst the international boys were warming up for the coming season, I also strapped on my boots for the first time. Conditions were perfect as two National League sides blew out the summer cobwebs in a cracking, fast paced encounter.

The home side, who had the sharper edge in the three quarters, squandered four gilt edge changes, mostly through a lack of clinical finishing and rustiness. However, they kept creating and testing, and eventually they overran the visiting Scottish side with seven top drawer tries – whilst the Scots managed three scrappy tries through there dominant pack.

What was pleasing was that, whilst I too was rusty (and made one real clanger!) I quickly found my rhythm and felt comfortable with the pace and level of the game. Next up is another National league warm up where I hope to move through the gears a bit quicker.