Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Thanks to everyone who has contributed or helped develop a question in the call-out phase.

It seems that an urgent question is to judge “standards”. Rennie, usually very conservative, blared out. What do you think World Rugby can do to solve this smoldering problem with Ref and TMO standards?
– Bobby

When Big Brother is a death knell every referee moment, it inevitably has an effect.
-Red Rob

Nick, a “rule” question regarding the Welsh knock down. Is the offense committed simply at the point of contact (with the ball hitting the ground) by the defender … whether it goes forward or backward is irrelevant?
– Bobby

The bank on or back is completely irrelevant. If the player deliberately hits the ball and does not collect it back before hitting the ground, it is cynical play and penalty kick or yellow card.
– Former fan

The Tompkins attempt was not so clear, but I think it was probably a fair attempt. The only thing to be decided is whether it was a bank on or not. If the ball was knocked on, it should have been a penalty kick to Australia. I’m not sure the laws on whether it should have been a yellow card or not. Does the opposing team have to be in a try-scoring situation for it to turn yellow?
– Larry Longprong.

Am I alone in thinking that a red card for a head-on collision is ridiculous when a swinging arm only got one yellow? I understand it all, the rules, the mitigation, etc … I just think it’s ridiculous. I just do not see how it helps any aspect of the game to punish completely unintentional contact that way
– Today

The discussion about refereeing standards has hardly abated since the controversies from the Scotland game, some of which Dave Rennie has stated were the subject of an apology from World Rugby. They were alive again after Mike Adamson’s performance in the Wales match.

Instead of just repeating what has gone on before in other articles this week, I will try to add a new perspective. In all referee controversies, there are typically three aspects to consider: [1] the letter of the law, [2] the protocols within the laws established by the Judge’s Performance Panel; and [3] the broader needs of Rugby as a professional spectacle. All of these must be met in order to achieve uniformity in the execution of the game.

Let’s look at three of the major events of the match in Cardiff from these vantage points. There is little doubt that the referee had no choice but to send Rob Valetini away forever in the clash with Wales’ second-placed Adam Beard. Ten years ago it would have been condemned as a ‘rugby accident’ and completely ignored, but times have changed and so has the view of great challenges.

Now there is far greater sensitivity to the long-term danger of concussion and head trauma, then [2] and [3] is on the rise:

There is no play by Beard and Wales lost its lineout calling services the rest of the match. The body language after the event tells you everything you need to know: Bobby Valetini is remorseful and he knows exactly what the result will be.

The letter of the law [1] does not describe the penalty for dangerous play, but only states that “A player who commits foul play must either be warned or temporarily suspended or expelled.” The protocols (which changed a few years ago) can be found here.

A few minutes later, Australian defender Kurtley Beale received a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on in the act of tackling Welsh center Nick Tompkins:

The letter of the law only states that “a player may not intentionally knock the ball forward with his hand or arm”. It is left to the protocols to determine the degree of sanctions. In this case, the conversation between the judge and TMO included the ‘unnatural’ broad blow of Beale’s left arm. As the last defender in the row, players are trained to try to make contact with the ball as part of their tackle.

Once again, Nick Tompkins’ immediate reaction is significant. He knows what Beale is trying to do, and he knows what the sanction should be. According to the current perception of [2] and [3] there is no argument against the yellow card.

The third decision was an example of a situation where [1] do not agree with [2] and [3], so there is a loophole in the consistency:

The scenario is exactly the same for Tompkins in defense as it was for him at the attack in the previous example. Like Beale, he tries to knock the ball down in the act of tackling Tom Wright.

According to the letter of the law, the ball does not move forward, but the reactions of all players in red and green imply the protocol: If the ball hits the ground in front of the player, it is always called a knock on. Everyone knows it, and everyone on both sides stops right away. Tompkins’ reaction is the same afterwards – a sad shaking of his head at an incredible bit of luck. ‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth’, as they say.

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Did the strikers lift enough to give our backs the quality ball they needed? An improvement is not a dominant view, and I did not see too much dominance in our forward-looking efforts. – Still missing

What do the statistics say about how the three French-based players fared? Now for Super Rugby next year, what do we need from Super Rugby? I think there will be some more players who will put their hands up for the Wallaby selection and play out the established ones.
– Bodger

With the Australian and New Zealand rugby brand battling the highly structured game of the Northern Hemisphere, how will the further concentration of the ‘Trans-Tasman brand’ in a Super Rugby competition without South Africa further affect our competitiveness?
– Kvad

I think we should ask more about the Giteau law, and whether it should be scrapped altogether. With Marika now free and our best whore BPA also off, should we really take that step and go the way of South Africa?
– The ferret

Do you feel that what Rennie would have learned about the Europe-based players justified justifying some younger team members and not choosing regular players like Swain and Philip?
– JC

It looks like there was another risky move against the Wallabies where the players were pre-latched. Out of all the refereeing errors, Wales’ maul attempt was the most frustrating.
– Elysius Rugby

Many questions also about the influence of the European-based players on the Wallaby team, especially in the second row, where Rory Arnold and Will Skelton currently play on two of the top teams in France – so also Izack Rodda until at. recently.

Here’s a comparison that provides a rough guide to second-place performances during the international season (end of year for the first three, Rugby Championship for Philip and Swain):

Player Played minutes Transport interval (min) Ruck participation interval (min.) Lineouts won (average per match) Tackle interval / completion%
Rory Arnold 165 18 ′ 5.0 ′ 5.0 15 ‘/ 92%
Izack Rodda 240 15 ′ 3.5 ′ 2.0 10 ‘/ 89%
Will Skelton 75 11 ′ 2.9 ′ 0.0 11 ‘/ 100%
Matt Philip 384 12 ′ 4.4 ′ 1.5 10 ‘/ 97%
Darcy Swain 239 34 ′ 2.5 ′ 2.5 10 ‘/ 80%

The biggest single difference is in the lineout performance. The Wallabies ranked dead last on the lineout in their own ball during the Rugby Championship (82%, dropping to 74% including spoiled or useless ball). When the lineout captaincy switched to Izack Rodda, it flourished to 89% on the tour, and theft on the opposing pitch also increased from 14% to 17%. There was no significant dropout at the lineout time as Rory Arnold left the pitch to be replaced by Will Skelton around 50 to 60 minutes. Returning the lineout leadership to either Matt Philip or Darcy Swain would be a clear step backwards in 2022.

With the greater emphasis in Europe on accurate set pieces, the presence of especially Rory Arnold as ‘banker ball’ is also important and allows for more flexibility in the selection at number 6. Arnold also led a dominant defensive effort at the maul against all three opponents. Neither Scotland, England nor Wales got any change out of their attempt to move across the Australian line from close range:

Arnold penetrates the ball so fast that there is literally nowhere to go for the England and Scotland lineout.
Wales and Scotland were forced to use trickery to make progress in these situations:

There is also a crucial difference between the two examples under law. Where Scotland’s move was illegal and should have been punished because there were two attackers pre-tied in the front pod (“an illegal type of attack … teammates are locked on either side of the ball carrier in a wedge formation before activating opposition “), Wales were okay with only one striker locked on the receiver in front.

There is no reason why Arnold and Rodda should not retain their Wallaby starting places in 2022. The jury is still out on Will Skelton from the bench. He showed improvement against Wales and culminated in what should have been a winning turnover on the deck late (he won 10 such turnovers in last season’s Top 14 for La Rochelle), so there is a clear difference if Dave Rennie can find more effective ways to get his ball-bearing ability and discharge into play.

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Can you explain the difference between Antoine Dupont and Aaron Smith when they were taken possession of the ball at the bottom of the ruck, and the way Judge Barnes judged it? I suppose Barnes was right in his decisions, but I would like it clarified. How did you feel about the match between the two halfbacks?
– Otago Mand.

There is just time to include a short answer to this interesting question. Part of the charm and intrigue of comparing the two best half-backs in the world is that their strengths are so very different. Dupont is a runner who stands close to the base, stands up to the opposing strikers and wants to put his own up on the berry.

Even with three New Zealanders on top of him, Dupont finds a way to create something forward on the play. Where the Frenchman sets up to shoot, Aaron Smith sets up to deliver:

It makes him more vulnerable to pressure at the base, but it also creates attempts that Dupont would not be able to deliver:

Remember to look into next week!

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