World Rugby made game dangerous

Dan Retief

Arguably Nigel Owens’ worst performance as a Test referee, in Wellington NZ last Saturday, yet again drew attention to the complete mess rugby has got into by not adhering to its own Law Book.

If ever an All Black captain was to have been sent off it should have been Kieran Read for an overtly dangerous “clean-out” of Francois Louw.

Read came in from the side of a (so-called) ruck, dived off his feet and made contact with Louw in the neck and head area –  sending the strapping Springbok flanker flying, which obviously required some force.

Granted it was during a period that the match was building to a crescendo but Owens did not blow on his whistle, did not stop the play, did not award the Boks’ a penalty and certainly did not reach for his pocket of playing cards.

This at a time that World Rugby, along with other sports bodies, has put out clear missives that contact with the head is outlawed because of studies showing the serious and lasting effects of concussion.

Read is a fine and admirable sportsman and one helluva No8 forward but he should have got his marching orders – at least a yellow card.

Owens also missed a blatant no-arms shoulder hit (they call it a body-stop in hockey) by Jack Goodhue on Warren Whiteley that had the Bok eighthman and stand-in skipper on the canvas, but the Welsh referee either did not see the infringement, or did, and simply waved play on.

There were other blind spots, knock-ons, forward passes and, to be fair, possible penalties against the desperately defending Boks in the last hectic minutes which were not called by Owens.

You have to ask what on earth were the assistant referees, Frenchman Pascal Gauzere and Australia’s Nic Berry watching? Should the TMO, England’s Rowan Kitt, not have intervened to point out, at the very least, Read’s impersonation of a scud missile?

Yet in the same sequence one of them was able to intervene to have Willie le Roux binned for an innocuous misdemeanour while missing the more dangerous act.

Now juxtapose this with a match that took place thousands of kilometres away in a different hemisphere between the Leicester Tigers and Wasps.

Leicester’s Will Spencer was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Tommy Taylor and ended up being banned for four weeks.

The disciplinary panel found that “on the balance of probabilities this was a reckless tackle that resulted in direct, forceful contact to the head of Tommy Taylor.”

No matter that Spencer is a bean pole and the smaller Taylor dipped into him. It looked accidental but, hey, it’s the law.

So how now Kieran Read? His action of illegally entering a ruck (so-called) was surely, at the very least, reckless?

Fans were quick to point out (as they can and do on social media) that yet again it was different strokes for different folks when it comes to the All Blacks. There certainly is a universal view that when it comes to the 50/50s the All Blacks get the rub of the green.

However I am more inclined to lay the blame on the doormat of World Rugby in Pembroke Street, Dublin.

For too long the game’s high court judges have sent down edicts which are at odds with the Laws of The Game.

Take the neck roll outcry involving David Pocock. The very structure of the ruck has been so transformed that it hardly resembles what stands in the book. The Wallaby loose forward, a solid block of immovable concrete, is the supreme master of the hands-in that is permitted but also the best example of what has gone wrong.

Players going for the turnover bend down to grab the ball with their heads down. So what happens? The cleaners hit into them around the head area or like Pocock they get grabbed by the neck (where else do you grab?) and twisted off the ball.

It is in fact the rule that causes the danger to the player.

Too many laws are simply not applied; such as the hindmost foot, yet violent clearing out (sometimes of a player nowhere near the ball) or the legalised obstruction which is the driving maul, is okay.

Too much is left to the referee’s subjective discretion and, being human, they err or come to conflicting conclusions.

So here goes, one more time… all we ask for is consistency, the same outcome for the same indiscretion… just blow the bloody laws as they stand in the book.

- Dan Retief

Let's chat

  • Redge

    AB’s get away with “murder”, FACT! Our referees are overall pathetic and killing the game,FACT! Referees are untouchable,FACT! There are big money involved in betting and winning,FACT! Should Rugby Union be worried that referees might be involved in betting and therefor help some teams to win, absolutely yes! Boks was robbed in the 2011 RWC by a NZ referee. The whole world agreed something was wrong in that game BUT NZ selected him as ref of the year for 2011????? Where is he now? Then Joubert very clearly favoured the AB’s in the final against France. Coincidence? No f ways!

    • Johan

      Am I the only one seeing the irony?

      The previous article on AOR: “Has rugby gone soft?”
      The nex one: “World Rugby made game dangerous”

      Rugby is “soft” and “dangerous” :D

      btw, yes the ABs have always gotten away with murder, but I think it is a mental thing.
      “They are the best” therefore almost everything they do are awesome and right.
      Subconsciously most referees have already decided that the ABs are suppose to win and are subconsciously helping that assumption along…

      Home Team advantage by referees are a real (proven) thing and I think this extends to the favorites as well.
      Especially the ABs as they have been winning everything for nearly 10 years now:
      https://www.seeker.com/why-do-refs-make-bad-calls-1792531340.html

  • Sharky

    So Read hasn’t even been cited?! I’ve had a busy few days and haven’t kept up with the rugby news, but I assumed (after watching the game live) that the citing commissioner would fix what Nige missed. Obviously I was wrong.

    • Wesley

      Even if I would give Owens and his assistants the benefit of the doubt of missing the Read hit on Flo, where is the citing commissioner on this? Where are they ever on when the ABs play dangerously? Many a time, even in SR, they are nowhere to be seen when NZ teams dangerous infringe on the rules. And the ABs are the best team in the world where most eyes are cast onto their playing style and players! There is something seriously wrong! Yes all teams are sometimes guilty but i would say NZ even more so… Call us sour or jealous all you want, those are the facts!

    • Chris Mouton

      It’s just ridiculous. If that was Schalk, Bakkies or Bismarck it would’ve been a red for sure…I think Flo should’ve stayed down and force them to look at it. But then the rugby players might start acting like the silly soccer players milking penalties for everything.

  • Wesley

    Owens even appeared on the awareness documentary on head injuries in rugby. Beyond 80. Google it if you havent seen it. Now if i was a ref of the game, and player safety is truely a concern for me, i would be on the citing commissioners back after seeing a hit like Read’s on replays. He has gone quiet, rather opting to write an article in the Welsh press about the Williams outbust in the US Open. Really???

    • Jennifer

      Wesley….love your knowledge, your sarcastic humour and your spot on observations :)

  • Stephen

    Another Reid infringement which he completely got away with was the spear tackle on Jantjies in the 2017 final. That was about first 15 minutes.

  • Barry Smith

    Had a fair opinion of Owens, untill last Saturday! The decision I found puzzling was the spear tackle review. The TMO’ confirmed it did not go through the 90, so there was no issue, but Owens allocated AB’S a penalty anyway, saying no card, only a penalty for a lift tackle? If you read up on lift tackles, they are only illegal if they go through the 90, when they become a spear tackle, so to my mind there was no cause for a penalty at all, it should have been scrum attacking ball!

  • Albert

    Read deserved a card for his shoulder hit from the side to Flouws head. How he got away with it after all those officials watching and then having no citing is just shocking. The Kiwis got away with several dangerous neck roles on Pick as well with zero citings. This is horribly unjust and not an isolated incident. World Rugby needs to take some action.

  • Andrew

    Referees are the weakest link in rugby. What makes it worse is that they do not even have the guts to say anything or defend themselves. Havent heard a word from mr owens, otherwise being very chirpy on the field. There are no consistancy when it comes to ref decisions

  • Bazza

    There are four referees!

  • Nick

    Did anybody notice Aaron Smith’s head [around the neck] high tackle on faf about 5 mins in the game. Looked very much like Smith getting his ‘response in early’. Owens missed it, but in my naivete I assumed the ‘independent’ citing authorities would pick this one up later.
    Not a chance.

  • Amien

    Have said it for years. Ever notice how ordinary the all blacks become when the refs actually start penalising them for taking players out without ball, forward passes offside at rucks. Slowing ball obstruction running lines. Holding on to players at ruck time. Jumping forwards not up on an up and under. They get away with these little thing that have big consequences in the game.

  • Charles Grevelink.

    I have been looking at Rugby,since 1949.That is a long time.Since that time I have seen many Referees.Their influence on the game has been not,been misread.They are the Holy Grail,They must not be taken to the cleaners.They are always right.That will be the day.Remember in Australia when,James Small, was asked to leave the game.Ridiculous,they are never are asked,to explain there decisions.Mark Kaplan to me was,the ultimate.He also stated, that ,the” Law book”, is left on the sideline, when the AB,play.The attitude of, Fitz Patrick,AB.Mark got it right,Agree, that they control the game.We must abide with their interpretation but the it must be according to the laws.They are paid ,then their decisions must be accountable. There are so many,” Grey”, areas.Do they know them?I, doubt,it

  • Faghrie

    Nigel Owens was poor but I think tHat the ref of the game between South Africa and Australia the week before was even worse. New Zealand’s refs are poor but arrogant. Aussie refs are out of their depth and the South African refs are a bunch of cowards who are only concerned about their own ambition. It’s amazing how all our strong referees were sidelined before the 2011 rugby world cup. Referees like Tappe Henning, Jonathan Kaplan and Marius VD Westhuizen were demoted and our weakest referee Craig Joubert was suddenly seen as being the best southern hemisphere ref. New Zealand carefully fixed the 2011 world cup with some dubious refereeing.

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