As the fallout from Scotland’s last minute defeat to Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final continues, the media glare begins to turn on the International Rugby Board. Initially, Scotland fans directed their ire at referee Craig Joubert for running off the pitch straight after the final whistle and the IRB wasted little time condemning the South African for making the wrong decision to award Australia the match winning penalty.
While football may be the Beautiful Game, rugby is lauded for its insistence that the players respect the referee. The IRB’s decision to criticise Joubert so soon after the match undermines his position and erodes respect for referees across the sport. While the crowd at Twickenham was able to spot the referee’s mistake on the big screen replays, Joubert himself was prevented from consulting the Television Match Official. This is because the TMO can be used to determine acts of foul play, ruling on an infringement in the build-up to a try or to check both grounding of the ball and kicks at goal – but crucially not to check whether a player is offside.
Before the technology was implemented, it should have been predicted that games at the highest level would be determined by such decisions. The IRB must accept responsibility for handicapping the referee at such a crucial point of the tournament. Just as the failure to award Frank Lampard a goal against Germany in the 2010 World Cup ultimately led to the introduction of goal line technology, let’s hope that Scotland’s misfortune will ensure the rules are changed in future.