by Arthur Fernandez
Last week saw some quality rugby being played. Of all the matches that I witnessed the South Africa / Wales game is still etched in my mind. The Springboks have won the cup twice before and are the current holders of the world cup. Thus there was awe of expectation when they ran onto the field at the Westpac Stadium, Wellington. The Welsh feel that they were robbed of victory when a penalty kick was disallowed as it sailed high above the level of the upright.
|South Africa Springboks’ Pierre Spies (2nd L) and Victor Matfield (C) tackle Wales’ Rhys Priestland during their Rugby World Cup Pool D match at Wellington Regional Stadium in Wellington last week. REUTERS
The IRB has responded to the talk of the penalty having been disallowed by saying that it cannot be the case because nothing was allowed in the first instance. The reference to using the TMO is another causing much comment. Any reference to use of the TMO is where there is doubt over an issue of a try being scored, can be awarded or in relation to the success or otherwise of kicks at goal. Law 6.A.6. (b) None of the officials were in any doubt, therefore, no referral. Moving on further they indicated that those who watched the match on TV will have seen the same 2D camera angle that would have been available to the Television Match Official. Rugby has no hawk eye or hot spot, (not that I am very happy with that technology given the issues in the current SL vs Aus cricket series) so with the ball higher than the posts and no software yet to call upon to ‘draw’ the posts in, the TMO would have seen what we saw.
Whilst one can see the official point of view, losing a match because of such an issue can be heartbreaking and James Hook must be a disappointed man. The # 8 Toby Faletau had a good game and the Welsh pack is heavy and yet very mobile. If they continue to play in the same fashion, they will be force to be reckoned with.
Despite Rugby World Cup being just a week old the directive of IRB elite referee manager Paddy O’Brien for referees is to be stricter and manage, (penalise), the areas of concern, have been taken on board.
The breakdown has been managed with a mixture of ‘guidance to the players’ and penalties by the officials. Scrums have seen a minimum of re-setting with free kicks or penalties being awarded quickly, allowing teams to move on from that area. The offside has generally seen a marked improvement in player compliance, as it seems defence coaches throughout the teams have encouraged their charges that half a metre given up is better than risking the penalty and possible points.
Foul play (with the emphasis on tip or spear tackling, and high tackles), have again been at the low end. Players however knowing the directive will be wary, as a deliberate head high tackle seeking to stop the ball carrier in his tracks is a red card waiting to happen.
The man at the centre of proceedings at Eden Park for the RWC opener was Irish referee George Clancy who joined an elite club featuring just six other officials who have all taken charge of a World Cup opener. The ‘Gil Evans whistle’ was originally used by Welsh referee Gil Evans for England’s first ever clash with New Zealand at Crystal Palace in 1905.
Media reports indicate that George Clancy was pretty thrilled about getting the first game and getting to use the ‘Gil Evans whistle’. Obviously as a referee the highlight of your career must surely be refereeing at a World Cup and to be able to take charge of the opening game or officiating in the final can be described as the pinnacle of one’s refereeing career.