- Calls for Openness and Consistency in Refereeing Decisions at Rugby World Cup
- Controversies Surrounding Red Cards and Bunker Reviews
- Opinions on TMO Use and Its Impact on the Game
England’s head coach, Steve Borthwick, has demanded more openness regarding refereeing decisions at the Rugby World Cup. As the sport’s disciplinary structure is scrutinised, his predecessor, Eddie Jones, criticised television replays.
Tom Curry was sent off within three minutes of last week’s victory over Argentina, making him the fourth England player to be dismissed in six matches. While he accepted his punishment, similar incidents involving South Africa’s Jesse Kriel, Chile’s Martin Sigren, Wales’ Dan Biggar, and France’s Romain Taofifénua were not deemed worthy of a red card.
This has led to accusations of inconsistent officiating at the World Cup, as Sigren and Taofifénua were sent to the “bunker” for review, whereas Kriel and Biggar were not punished. TMO rulings are public, but bunker review decisions are not. On Friday, Borthwick became the latest head coach to appeal for consistency and clarity.
Borthwick stated before England’s Sunday match against Japan, “In terms of the card situation, what we all want is consistency and probably some transparency around the decision-making process, but for us, we’ll focus on what we can control and what we know, which is our performance on Sunday.
“Our goal is to always have 15 players on the stage. Regarding our discipline and card situation, we wish to ensure that we do not possess any cards.
In terms of discipline, however, we conceded seven penalties last week. Therefore, I believe you observe a team that is attempting to be disciplined. That’s our objective.”
Borthwick continued by highlighting the disparity between World Rugby’s willingness to appeal against the initial decision to rescind Owen Farrell’s red card last month and the governing body’s relative reluctance to speak on disciplinary matters at the tournament. “It has been said and noted that there has been a great deal of commentary from various sources about what appears to be a lack of consistency and transparency in the decision-making process. Now, it is not my responsibility to comment on this; it is World Rugby’s.
“Owen Farrell was also the subject of much World Rugby commentary during our tournament preparation. It was a situation that drew extensive commentary from World Rugby. According to what I’ve heard, World Rugby has not made many comments in the last week or so. That is a matter for World Rugby.”
Jones believes that the use of the TMO diminishes the spectacle of the game. To avoid lengthy delays, a limited number of replays of incidents under review have been shown, but as a result, supporters are perplexed as to why decisions are being made.
“I’ve always said the game needs to be more continuous, the average ball-in-play is 30 seconds and the average break in the game is 70 seconds, so you encourage a power contest,” said Jones, whose Australia team faces Fiji on Sunday. “I believe more continuous action is required.
“Rugby’s use of the TMO is fraught with danger.” They are requesting that a referee in the stands make decisions based on a separate video angle of the game.
It does not make the game a greater spectacle, nor does it make the game better for the players.
“We are fortunate that international rugby is so well-liked. There were 50,000 spectators in Lille [on Thursday night] to witness France play Uruguay. We played a [warm-up] match against France in front of 80,000 spectators.
“Due to its nationalism and patriotism, international rugby supporters will watch anything on the pitch. But we must significantly enhance the game. After this World Cup, I believe that opportunity will arise.”
If Jones and other coaches could advise World Rugby collectively to improve the process, he said, “They don’t know.”
Wednesday, World Rugby and France 2023, the tournament’s administrators, discussed the quality of refereeing thus far.
Refereeing is one of the hardest jobs in sports, thus we must encourage them constantly. Due to its nationalism and patriotism, international rugby supporters will watch anything on the pitch.
World Rugby is reportedly concerned about social media’s use of still photographs to assess players.
A spokesperson for World Rugby added, “The citing window is 36 hours, and the citing commissioner has access to 15 or 16 different video angles; they see everything.” If they also determine that there was no distinct or obvious head contact, the incident is not subject to disciplinary action.”