Rugby has a way of proving on a regular basis that it is really just an amateur pastime masquerading as a professional sport.
Ugly scenes marred a crucial tier-two Rugby World Cup qualifier on Sunday when Spain’s players accosted Romanian referee Vlad Iordăchescu who delivered a substandard performance.
Belgium’s 18-10 win over Spain cost Los Leones (the Lions) a place at direct qualification for the 2019 tournament in Japan and potentially several million euros in earnings. Spain, in all likelihood, will have to beat Samoa in a few months to qualify, which is highly unlikely.
What the result did do though, was ensure that Romania directly qualified for the World Cup. Huh? World Rugby have already distanced themselves from the appointment of Romanian officials to a crucial game that had a direct impact on Romania’s chances of reaching the World Cup. Rugby Europe, which falls under World Rugby’s banner, made the appointment. Did no one in Dublin consider the possible problems?
It is, after all, the same World Rugby that stood down SA official Marius van der Westhuizen from touch judge duties for the England versus Ireland clash at Twickenham last week because he had spent some time with Eddie Jones’ team at their training base.
Depending on which stats you look at, Iordăchescu awarded Belgium between 18-28 penalties and only eight to Spain. Having only seen snippets of the match I’m not qualified to nit pick each decision, but every account I’ve read, from reputable rugby observers, was that the officiating was a disgrace to that particular match and more broadly, to rugby.
Even if the decisions were not deliberately wrong, and by all accounts there were many inconsistencies and blatant mistakes, it was a bad look for the game with three officials from a country that would benefit from a Spain loss. The Spanish players’ reaction was appalling and something that should have consequences. But this incident just underlines yet again what a shambles officiating has become.
Every week in Super Rugby there are myriad mistakes and inconsistencies that leave players, coaches and especially fans, confused.
Teams at all levels of the professional game have to spend hours on studying a referee to understand how he officiates and ‘his vision’ of the game. Surely that’s bollocks? How can one referee see things differently from another? There are laws, and refs should blow according to those laws.
Rugby’ rules are complex and being such a dynamic sport there is a lot happening, and usually at very high pace. No one is suggesting it’s easy being a referee, but there are just too many inconsistencies to ignore.
It doesn’t need ‘interpretation’ to spot players offsides, yet week in and week out in all levels of rugby, the defending side is often a metre offsides. It’s one of the simplest infringements to spot and one of the aspects of the game that is hurting rugby, yet it’s seldom penalised.
Referees appear that they no longer want to make decisions. Ireland’s three first half tries against England at the weekend were all referred to the TMO. The right calls were reached but it seems that officials no longer want to take responsibility for anything.
The Spanish players let themselves down badly after the match against Belgium, but there has to be some sympathy. Every week players and coaches are gagged from speaking out about poor officiating and every week pro teams send video clips and reports to various ruling bodies asking for clarity on mistakes. And yet officiating appears to be becoming worse, not better.
Rugby has many issues, but it’s greatest challenge is finding a way to stop officials becoming the story.