Wales’ Woe and Some Thoughts On Referees

15 10 2011

Well this world cup gets more contentious every weekend! And, sadly, the referees are at the centre of it once again.

We at the Compulsive Hooker always seem to be in a minority when it comes to referees. Where the rest of the world (or certainly outraged fans commenting on reports on the net) consistently demand perfection in their decision making, we have long taken the line that referees are human and these things happen. This rather sanguine attitude can obviously have its flaws as it is important to seek out mediocrity and improve it in all things. Yet, when you have a normally reasonable character such as Jonathan Davies calling for the head of a chap who only 80 minutes before was acknowledged to be one of the finest referees in the game, we feel its gone too far the other way.

Combine the following factors and what do you get? Referees are essentially human. Rugby is a seriously hard game to referee as so much of it is subjective in areas such as the breakdown.

A huge great mess is the answer on occasions which leads less than impartial pundits and fans to overreact. The irony of this situation is that with the IRB under consistent pressure to raise refereeing standards they have tried to take as much of the uncertain grey middle ground out of aspects of the game such as the tackle. One of these of course is the tipping of a player so that he is the wrong way up when he lands having been tackled and lifted – exactly what happened today.

It seems that the ref’s can’t win – if they follow the law makers instructions (to start with a red card and move backwards from there) they get castigated for being too harsh or, had the decision gone the other way, possibly had masses of French favouring supporters clamouring that Rolland is biased. To remove the grey and create something black and white you have to remove the subjectivity and as such, in our opinion, you cannot blame Rolland.

If there is ire to be directed then perhaps it would be better directed at the IRB themselves who dished out the initial advice on reds. Possibly better advice would be to suggest a yellow as a starting point unless there is clear malicious intent when a red becomes due – although that, once again is bringing the human element of subjectivity into the equation.

Few people today would argue that Wales were unfortunate in the grand scheme of things in this game with their second half performance being huge in terms of character and no little skill. Sadly, however, the fact remains that even given the problems of being one short they should have won this match. Three kicks were missed with at least one of these being more or less a given at international level.

The eventual winners, France, were so poor that it feels wrong simply writing that they won, now move onto a final where either the Tri Nations champions or the best side in the world await. However one thing that you can say for this French side – as disorganised, chaotic and lacking in game plans they may be – is that you simply don’t know what they’re capable of and this is perhaps their best weapon. The All Blacks for one may well be nervous facing a side written off but who so often has become their nemesis.

It is a shame when so much of the post match discussions are taken up by one decision by one man yet for us, in real time, our immediate response was ‘red card’ and so that fact alone was enough for us to exonerate Rolland of the majority of the blame. Subscribers to the ‘The Great Conspiracy to Defraud the Springboks of the World Cup’ and their sister group who seem to be springing up using Rolland’s French heritage as evidence of bias will undoubtedly feel differently.




7 responses

15 10 2011

New Zealand won’t be happy at seeing France as a Potential opponent, Oz will probably be licking their chops at it.

France have been poor, to see them today just sit back and not bother attacking 14 man Wales was frankly depressing.

As for the refs, I feel ROland was a little harsh, but that is with the virtue of replays! One thing I like on the close decisions in cricket is that we usually get a real time replay, that generally shuts up most critics seeing how little time the ump has to make a decision.

Overall, the refs have been poor, this is not a reflection on them, it is a reflection on the games administrators. The major issue is consistency in ref’ing; there is a massive gulf in how to run a game based on a southern or northern hemisphere ref.

However, there is no gulf in the consistently missed calls: feeding, closing the line, offside, going off feet, crossing, obstruction, the more I have watched this WC, the more I see the game of Rugby League!! The refs need an education, and they (just like my England boys) need to go back to the BASICS.

I watched a replay of the 91 final a few days ago, that was rugby union, and that was ref’ing. The players were marched 10 yards, the scrums we formed and over within 30 seconds of being awarded, the feed was straight, obstruction penalised etc.

For too long the IRB have allowed the players to dictate the ref, and the refs are not too set in their ways of not bothering to penalise what are seen as ‘little things’. It is time for the IRB to make a presentation to all national teams, and inform them that they are clamping down and reclaiming the game, the rules are laid out, play by them. If you don’t you will be penalised, if you want to argue, you’ll be marched 10. There is no reason for the game to have evolved and for ref’ing to have been a forgotten art.

15 10 2011

Well put. It does seem strange when you look at an old game how things have changed!

16 10 2011
Brian Carpenter

I agree with all that you say and much of the comment above, although I see little chance of anything changing. In particular, the decline of the scrummage (as a result of crooked feeding and poor engagement) is one of the aspects of modern rugby union that grieves me the most.

The attitude which has poisoned virtually all dialogue around football in the UK in recent years is becoming more and more prevalent in rugby. People with access to multiple replays and who, in the majority of cases, have an imperfect knowledge of the laws and absolutely no practical experience of refereeing, castigating officials for decisions which, while apparently incorrect in the cold light of day, are made by a human being who is required to react virtually instantaneously to events.

It is inevitable that mistakes will sometimes occur. Everyone – players, coaching staff, supporters – must accept this and look to their teams’ faults.

To say that Wales would have won if Warburton hadn’t been dismissed is a shallow and intellectually lazy approach. In the end, all that matters is not what could have happened or what should have happened, it’s what actually did happen.

In tight games you need to kick your goals. Wales failed to do so.

Players, like officials, make mistakes. Is anybody criticizing James Hook or Stephen Jones in the same terms as Rolland? I doubt it, but their errors had just as much to do with the fact that Wales lost that any decision made by Rolland.

16 10 2011
Brian Carpenter

Sorry, the last sentence of the above comment should read:

I doubt it, but their errors had just as much to do with the fact that Wales lost as any decision made by Rolland.

17 10 2011

I have a question. Why does rugby persist with only 3 working officials? Aussie rules long ago moved to 9, admittedly on a larger field, but two officials are always near the play on the field. NFL has off-the-ball contact, but uses 7. Basketball has 3 on a much smaller court with much less contact. Ice-hockey has 4 (one in front, and one behind the play, plus linesmen). Field hockey two umpires and no linesmen (no offside, no need). Only football and rugby seem to have stuck with the minimum number necessary and both would be improved by additional figures looking for infractions (and particularly in football’s case, checking for off-sides).

17 10 2011

Interesting idea that Russ. No idea to be honest and not something i’ve considered before – as the game gets faster that would definitely be one way of trying to improve things.

17 10 2011
James Parrett

Decent piece that, Brad.
I must say, when i first saw it i thought “great hit!”
I agree with Russ’ sentiment, we have all this technology available, just use it. A couple of replays and the video ref’s decision would have made it all clear and final.

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