South African referee Craig Joubert wrongly awarded Australia’s winning penalty in their 35-34 quarter-final defeat of Scotland at the Rugby World Cup but there is no plan to change the TMO system, organisers said on Monday.
Australia flyhalf Bernard Foley converted the penalty in Sunday’s match at Twickenham in London to send the Wallabies into a semi-final against Argentina next weekend, but Joubert should have instead awarded a scrum.
Distraught Scotland players and fans wondered why Joubert had not referred his decision to the television match official (TMO) but organisers World Rugby (WR) said earlier on Monday that he had adhered to protocols.
However, while the referee had not been permitted to consult the TMO, World Rugby issued a statement saying Joubert had made a mistake in awarding the penalty for “deliberate offside” by Scotland’s Jon Welsh at a lineout in the 78th minute.
TV replays immediately showed an Australian player had touched the ball, putting Welsh onside.
“On review of all available angles, it is clear that after the knock-on, the ball was touched by Australia’s Nick Phipps and Law 11.3(c) states that a player can be put onside by an opponent who intentionally plays the ball,” WR said.
“It is important to clarify that, under the protocols, the referee could not refer to the television match official in this case and therefore had to rely on what he saw in real time.
“In this case, Law 11.3(c) should have been applied, putting Welsh onside. The appropriate decision, therefore, should have been a scrum to Australia for the original knock-on.”
A WR spokesperson said earlier on Monday the sport’s governing body had no plans to review the use of the TMO despite the furore over Joubert’s decision.
“In the build-up to the tournament we have been at pains to explain the exact remit and protocols around the TMO,” he said. “The protocols are available on the website.”
Boos from crowd
Howls of protest from players and pundits followed Scotland’s defeat, all complaining that Joubert had not consulted the TMO over the decision.
Rugby luminaries including Ian McGeechan, Clive Woodward, Michael Lynagh, Lawrence Dallaglio and Gavin Hastings, all working as media pundits, were united in saying the TMO should have been involved.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw and coach Vern Cotter also lamented the lack of a TMO referral, as did the vast majority of the near-80 000 Twickenham crowd, with boos ringing around the ground as Foley slotted the penalty.
“I don’t know what the protocol is,” Laidlaw admitted. “But you could see from the way he [Joubert] had taken his time that he had a good look at the big screen and wasn’t sure.”
World Rugby’s (WR) rules clearly state that the TMO can only be used to determine on acts of foul play, ruling on an infringement in the build-up to a try and to check the grounding of the ball and kicks at goal – but not whether the penalty for offside was correct.
“We held a pre-tournament briefing at Twickenham for media where John Jeffrey explained, among other things, the TMO system,” the WR spokesperson said, pointing out that at the start of the tournament referees had been criticised for using the TMO too often.
WR responded quickly to that issue, encouraging referees to talk to TMOs without stopping the game.
Fans would no doubt be unhappy if the games were stopped to review every penalty decision – often over 20 per match – but there remained a simmering sense of dissatisfaction on Monday that even if protocol had been followed, such a huge match had been decided on a decision that everyone in the ground, via big screen replays, could see appeared wrong.
Joubert also drew criticism for running off the pitch at full time, not shaking hands with his assistants and players.
World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper was reluctant to offer any sort of opinion on Joubert’s performance.
“We do a full review of the referees post game, that process is underway so I don’t really want to comment on the specifics of the decisions taken or what Craig did before or after the game,” he said Monday.
“Maybe he was keen to get to the bathroom? We’ll find out and we’ll talk with Craig – but he is a superb referee.” – Reuters