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Joubert Controversy-Change in Rugby Culture?

GettyImages-493233416The fallout from the last couple of minutes of the Rugby World Cup quarter-final between Australia and Scotland is still rumbling along in the media.

For those of you that missed it, on Sunday night the referee Craig Joubert made the wrong decision in awarding the penalty that cost Scotland a place in the World Cup semi-finals and handed Australia a 35-34 victory.

Joubert’s decision provoked outrage among Scotland supporters after television replays showed that Australia scrum-half Nick Phipps had played the ball, ensuring that Welsh was not in an offside position and therefore the penalty should not have been awarded.

As soon as the whistle blew, Joubert ran off the pitch without shaking hands with the players while a bottle was thrown in his direction as he entered the tunnel at Twickenham.

The sad thing about this in my opinion is that it may well be the moment that the culture of our great game changes forever – and for the worse.

As a coach I have always told my teams that the referee is always right, he or she is the sole arbiter of fact. If I referee games I tend to use the phrase “this is what I saw…” and then make my decision.

However, following the game, World Rugby have issued a statement saying Joubert was wrong, the last decision should have been a scrum for a knock on not a penalty. They seem to have done this without input from the referee, at least there is no mention of that in their statement.

So why issue a statement like that? Are World Rugby going to insist the game is replayed? Of course they aren’t! So other than undermining the position of that referee what good is it?

There was no suggestions in the statement to enhance the ability for a referee to use the TMO in that sort of circumstance, no ideas for improvements, just a statement which was the written equivalent of throwing a man under a bus.

We also saw ex-players rant about the referee’s performance. Rant is one way to look at it but if I’d have said that on the sidelines about a referee at grassroots levels I would totally expect to be hauled over the coals for it. It would be seen as abuse of officials – it would have attracted a ban and possibly points deducted from my club side. But in this case not one word from the governing body about one of the 5 core values of our game – RESPECT.

So, will we see players, parents on the sideline, spectators at games, grassroots coaches etc. learning from the example World Rugby and professional pundits have set them or do we hope that those at the very bottom of the game have a better view of the standards and ethos our game is famous for than our governing body would seem to have and cling onto that.

I for one hope it’s the later but I fear we might have witnessed a culture change in the game. I hope for the sake of those youngsters coming into the game I’m wrong.

Photo: From World Rugby website courtesy of Getty Images


About spike

Level 2 coach, referee, Tigers supporter and full time rugby nut. Coached for over 15 years across squads from U6s to seniors, club sides as well as representative teams. View all posts by spike

2 Comments to Joubert Controversy-Change in Rugby Culture?

  1. Stuart, that is so interesting – you don’t think you could do that in a modern amateur rugby game on a mini, youth or adult level? I think there has been a good level of respect maintained in the amateur game up until this point. I have never seen something like you described but I would hope that you could still make the wrong call as the referee and not be burned at the steak for it (although I can understand some short term anger, of course) – otherwise no one will ever want to become a referee!

  2. Many years ago I was refereeing a game at Tuttles Lane, Wymondham involving Wymondham II & Thetford II the score going into the final seconds was 10-12 and Wymondham were attacking I saw an infringement and awarded a penalty to the attackng team but as I reviewed the decision in my head I realised that I had made a mistake. I could not change my mind and Wymondham kicked the goal to win 13-12.
    As is the tradition I went down the tunnel of players but could sense an anger amongst the Red & Whites, my first point of call on getting back into the changing rooms was the Thetford dressing room where I received some icy stares, I apologised saying that I had cost them the game and whilst I couldn’t change the result I gained the respect of the Thetford team and their skipper bought me a beer.

    I don’t think I could or would do that in the modern era!

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