Rugby

Hump Day News

Hump Day News

Welcome to Hump Day. That day where the disappointment of last week slowly gets overtaken with the anticipation of the weekend’s games. Being the middle of the week it’s also a time for reflection and so today I’ll also attempt to answer a couple of the more talked about issues that came out of the games last week. Spoiler Alert! I’m a biased referee and (mostly) on the side of the referee so if you’re wanting to get confirmation on how it’s the referee’s fault and the laws are killing the game go read that “other site” – or possibly some of the comments here.

Replacements Needed

The game last weekend was brutal with both the English and the Wallabies suffering some big injuries. So far in two tests eleven Wallaby players have been ruled out for one or more Tests through injury, while Darcy Swain is serving a two-week suspension for foul play. Some of those injuries look season ending and there is a need for replacements in the squad.

Wallabies Casualty Ward

  • Lachie Swinton, shoulder, Super Rugby
  • Quade Cooper, calf, first Test warm-up
  • Jed Holloway, calf, training
  • Tom Banks, broken arm, first Test
  • Allan Ala’alatoa, concussion, first Test
  • Len Ikitau, calf, training
  • Andrew Kellaway, hamstring tear, training
  • Ned Hanigan, knee, training
  • Izaia Perese, knee, second test
  • Scott Sio, shoulder/neck, second test
  • Cadeyrn Neville, knee, second Test
  • Jordan Petaia, concussion, second Test

Dave Rennie called in Reece Hodge after the first game and has now also called in Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Mark Nawaqanitawase to help boost the squad. The Wallabies are also set to welcome back centre Len Ikitau and tighthead prop Allan Ala’alatoa, and could be boosted by NSW second-rower Jed Holloway, after calling in the cavalry ahead of Saturday’s decider against England at the Sydney Cricket Ground. It’ll be interesting to see if Harry Wilson makes the squad. I’d certainly like to see him get a run.

These injuries and the replacements are going to see some big changes to the team that will also probably force some tactical game plan changes as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the players cope with changes and how they move forward. I think it’ll put some additional pressure on the leadership of the team and this could be a worry as it’s an area that I see still under development.

World Rugby doesn’t care about your our referee commentator frustrations

Georgina Robinson has written a great post on why the current frustrations are likely to continue for fans and players. The link to this can be found here. As she so eloquently puts in her article, “Australia doesn’t matter in the rugby universe. World Rugby, the opaque governing body in charge of the sport’s direction globally, cares not for your armchair agony.” and she is absolutely correct in this. World Rugby is reacting to the class action launched by some ex players who state that the governing bodies did not do enough to protect them. This suit has now been joined by a further 150 players plus an additional 75 rugby league players and it is something taking up more time in the board room than the whinging from a few people hidden down in the southern hemisphere. Let’s face it, they hate the way we step above ourselves so often and beat their glory boys so not a lot of sympathy for us at all.

World Rugby also doesn’t care about the struggles Australia has with the challenges from other sports, As far as they are concerned that’s “Australia’s problem” and we need to manage it.

I agree there are some issues. However, first and foremost for me is the problem of ex players commentating on the game while not knowing either the laws of the game or how they are applied and so making stupid comments that add fuel to the complaints. The main problem with this is that your average supporter, who also doesn’t understand the laws or their application, sees these ex players and thinks that with their experience in playing the game they do know the laws and so if they are complaining they must be correct. I think these ex players have an obligation to the game that has given them so much to actually learn the laws and why they are applied the way World Rugby dictates so they can provide the truth to their comments.

Some Law Issues from the weekend

Well there certainly were some interesting calls in the weekend and some very pertinent comments from coaches, commentators and even players after the games ended. The one that seemed to be the most problematic was the deliberate knock forward so I’ll address that in some detail. The law itself is pretty clear.

Law 11.3 says A player must not intentionally knock the ball forward with hand or arm. Sanction: penalty.

Law 11.4 says It is not an intentional knock-on if, in the act of trying to catch the ball the player knocks the ball on provided that there was a reasonable expectation that the player could gain possession

In addition to this World Rugby provided some guidelines on the application of this due to some teams actually training to knock the ball on to stop a try move by the opposition.

  • Trying to catch the ball does not involve knocking it up in the air and hoping you can regather it. The player must attempt to catch the ball
  • reasonable expectation means more likely than not.
  • If the action stops a promising move, that could lead to a try then the sanction is a YC.
  • If but for the action of the player knocking the ball a try would probably have been scored then the sanction is a RC and PT.

Now when I saw Perese’s attempt I was pretty sure that it would be a YC. I know he was attempting an intercept and have no issue with that. But, firstly he was knocking the ball up and hoping he could regather not attempting to catch the ball. And secondly, (and as proved on the field) he did not have a reasonable expectation of catching it. I’m sure he thought he did but that’s not the issue. When a ball is knocked away like that there is no way a referee will accept that there was a reasonable chance he could have regathered. I thought there was enough Wallaby players coming across for the defence and so no way was it a RC.

Smith’s card was different and it appeared more of a careless accident than anything. However, it was his deliberate action of moving his hand that knocked the ball down and even if it was an instinctive act to do something to spoil the wallabies play it did knock the ball forward and kill the move. The Wallabies were looking good with lots of players in the line and so a YC was entirely appropriate.

Now I know a lot of supporters would like this law removed but I’d be careful what you wish for. The reason the law was put in is because it is much easier to train a player to knock a ball out of the air than it is to train them to tackle. It is also very easy to have this look like an attempted intercept. Before this law was instigated players were deliberately targeting the ball rather than the player as that is an easier target. If it got removed then that would come back.

World Rugby continues to run rugby as a fair contest and to reward positive play. If they allow a player to knock the ball down then there would be many more scrums – Nutta might like that – and the game would be a lot more stop/start. I also completely disagree with the idea that bad passing is the issue and that if players can’t pass a ball without getting it knocked down then that’s their problem.

For me the fact that intercepts still happen at times tells me that the law as it stands and as it is applied is ok. This law and the way it is being applied is also not new. 22 years ago in 2000 when the Hurricanes were playing the Waratahs in Sydney, Jonah Lomu received 2 YCs for 2 attempted intercepts that he missed and so was red carded. Last Saturday Perese had options. He could have attempted to catch the ball with two hands, for a start. Or use one hand if he must, but actually catch it. Or he could have drifted a bit wider, wait for his marker to catch the ball, and drive him into the ground with a tackle.

Perhaps if players can’t accept what the law is and modify their behaviour after all of this time, then they don’t deserve the sympathy being afforded them?

Rugby

Emigrated to Australia a few years ago. I have spent 41 years in the NZ Army and worked with the Australian Defence Force almost every year. I am a huge believer in ANZAC and support the Wallabies against everyone except the All Blacks. Still refereeing today and love the game

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