15 July 2022

Are the laws of rugby killing the sport?

| Tim Gavel
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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones after England’s win against the Wallabies: when the winning coach complains about the refs, there’s a problem. Photo: Screenshot.

Walking away from Lang Park after the second rugby test between the Wallabies and England on Saturday night, the conversations among many of the 48,000 fans could be heard echoing a similar theme.

Talk wasn’t so much about the result of the game, which saw England defeat Australia 25 to 17, nor the fact that the series was now locked at one game all in the best-of-three series. Nor were conversations about the game ending the Wallabies’ 10-match winning streak at Lang Park.

Rather, the discussions focused entirely on the interpretation of the laws of the game by the match officials.

Two yellow cards were handed out on the referee’s interpretation of a ‘deliberate’ knockdown. For most watching the game it was obvious in both instances that Izaia Perese and Marcus Smith were attempting intercepts.

There was another instance during the game when England lock Jonny Hill also knocked the ball down while the Wallabies were on the attack, but referee Andrew Brace deemed that a penalty was sufficient, meaning the action was an attempted intercept rather than a deliberate knockdown.

And what about the elbow to the throat of Wallabies half back Nic White? According to the referee, a penalty was sufficient.

Nic White copped one in the neck. (Apparently, a deliberate knockdown is a more serious offence.) Photo: File.

Michael Hooper was also penalised for running into one of his own players when no England player was impeded.

Even Eddie Jones had a crack at the interpretation of the laws on Saturday night, and his team won!

On average there are 180 breakdowns in a Super Rugby game. At times, it would appear as though there is potentially a penalty at every ruck or maul.

The uncertainty is driving people away from the game. And this lack of clarity isn’t confined to test rugby.

Earlier in the season, Brumbies fullback Tom Banks was red carded for a tackle on Western Force winger Toni Pulu. Banks escaped suspension, creating doubts over whether the red card was warranted in the first place.

Decision-making at the highest level is creating angst at the community and club levels in Canberra, and I’m confident it’s the same elsewhere, with players frustrated by interpretations of the laws.

The problem is there are so many laws. It’s not the fault of the referees as they are simply administering laws set by others as they see it.

But if any of the referees had been leaving Lang Park last Saturday night with the throng of frustrated supporters, they would certainly have been provided with plenty of free advice.

Original Article published by Tim Gavel on Riotact.

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