• Hansen blames system, not refs

    All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has called for a change to the World Rugby protocols that do coaches, players and even match-day officials no favours, reports JON CARDINELLI in Weybridge.

    The All Blacks will tackle the Springboks in the first World Cup semi-final at Twickenham this Saturday. It is hoped that another potentially epic contest is not decided by a refereeing blunder.

    There’s been a lot of debate about refereeing, and indeed the officiating protocols in general, over the past week. The debate was sparked following Craig Joubert’s controversial decision to award Australia a penalty in the dying moments of the quarter-final last Sunday. Australia, through flyhalf Bernard Foley, converted that opportunity to edge Scotland 35-34.

    Joubert has been vilified by fans, critics and even his employers in the aftermath. On Monday, World Rugby sent out a release stating that Joubert should have awarded the Wallabies a scrum, and not a penalty.

    What has been pointed out by several experts, including former Test referee Jonathan Kaplan, is that Joubert made a difficult call in real time. Joubert didn’t have the luxury of referring the incident to the TMO. The current World Rugby protocol states that the TMO can only be used to check if a try has been scored or foul play has occurred.

    On Thursday, Hansen was asked if he was worried about the state of refereeing and any official in particular ahead of New Zealand’s showdown against South Africa. The head coach of the No 1 Test team in the world suggested it was the wrong question to ask.

    ‘You want to avoid being in a position where you can lose games at the death. You want to be well enough ahead by that stage. But in saying that, referees do make mistakes, and I don’t think the system does them any favours,’ said Hansen.

    ‘Sometimes the referee will make those mistakes at the beginning of games. Then there is not the same kind of emotional response as we saw last week. But it all adds up. You want to find ways of getting it right. The system needs to be looked at.

    ‘Joubert couldn’t use the technology in that game. He would have [if the protocol allowed him to]. World Rugby has to look at fixing that.’

    Unfortunately, nothing will change before the end of the current World Cup tournament.

    ‘Referees have always made mistakes,’ said Hansen. ‘They’re only human. They made mistakes in the old days, they’re making mistakes now. I’m sure they will make mistakes [in the semi-finals] on Saturday and Sunday, and in next week’s final. Something has to be done to help them out.’

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    Jon Cardinelli