Rugby Australia writes to World Rugby after Bledisloe Cup refereeing furore
Rugby Australia has written to the sport’s global governing body to reiterate concerns about refereeing after the Rugby Championship Test against New Zealand in Melbourne was tarnished by a contentious time-wasting decision.
The French referee, Mathieu Raynal, penalised Bernard Foley for holding up the game at Docklands last Thursday as the fly-half prepared to kick for touch from inside the Wallabies’ 22 with a minute remaining in the match.
After New Zealand were awarded a five-metre scrum in front of the posts, Jordie Barrett scored a try with the clock in the red to snatch a 39-37 victory for the All Blacks. Raynal’s decision, virtually unseen in elite rugby, was criticised by the Australia head coach, Dave Rennie, as well as many pundits.
A Rugby Australia spokesperson confirmed on Monday that it had urged World Rugby to take concerns about officiating in general seriously. “It’s not unusual, we’ve been lobbying World Rugby for some time on this,” the spokesperson said.
In recent years the increased use of the television match official (TMO) to spot infringements has led to more stop-start games in elite rugby. A lower threshold for yellow and red cards has also had an impact on the flow as the TMO and referee often assess video replays at length before making decisions.
Australia are not alone in expressing concerns about officiating. The England head coach, Eddie Jones, said in July that he would push for change, having become fed up with officiating delays and the “incessant” use of the TMO.
With defeat in Melbourne the Wallabies surrendered the Bledisloe Cup, the trans-Tasman trophy contested annually with New Zealand, for a 20th successive year.
Though Australia felt hard done by after Raynal’s time-wasting call, a couple of Foley’s back-line teammates sensed the urgency, urging him to kick the ball even as the team’s forwards remained huddled near the try-line.
Foley said on Friday he was trying to “get really clear” on what the Wallabies would do at the next lineout. The prop Allan Alaalatoa said the leadership group had reviewed the incident to see how they could handle similar situations better in future.
“I’ve never been part of a rugby game where that’s happened before but now we’ve learnt that,” he said. “We can only control what we can control and you’ve got to take the ref’s decision out of it.”
To win the Rugby Championship Australia will need to break a 36-year losing sequence against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday and hope Argentina can beat South Africa. The Wallabies will have to do without the loose forward Rob Leota, who ruptured his achilles during the Melbourne game. Australia may also lose Darcy Swain to suspension with the lock facing a judicial hearing later on Monday for a dangerous clean-out on the All Black Quinn Tupaea.