World Rugby admits Rugby World Cup refereeing errors during opening days
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 26/09/19 10:04am
World Rugby has taken the highly unusual step of publicly admitting to refereeing mistakes and inconsistencies during the first weekend of Rugby World Cup 2019.
Despite a public audit before the tournament began to clamp down on high tackles and no-arm tackles with cards and tough sanctions, the first two games of the World Cup saw major incidents missed.
In Friday's World Cup opener between Japan and Russia in Tokyo, Japan second row James Moore escaped a TMO review or sanction from referee Nigel Owens despite hitting Russia scrum-half Vasily Dorofeev high with a no-arms tackle - something which based on replays, appeared worthy of at least a yellow card.
On the second day of the World Cup, the most high-profile error saw Australia's Reece Hodge make contact with the head of Fiji flanker Peceli Yato with his shoulder at pace - a clear red card by World Rugby's own guidelines. Once again, neither the TMO Rowan Kitt or referee Ben O'Keefe reviewed the incident.
Yato, who was Fiji's most impressive performer until that point in the Test having scored a try and made several incisive carries, went off for a HIA but would not return as Fiji ultimately lost 39-21.
"Following the usual review of matches, the match officials team recognise that performances over the opening weekend of Rugby World Cup 2019 were not consistently of the standards set by World Rugby and themselves, but World Rugby is confident of the highest standards of officiating moving forward," read World Rugby's statement on Tuesday.
"Elite match officials are required to make decisions in complex, high-pressure situations and there have been initial challenges with the use of technology and team communication, which have impacted decision-making. These are already being addressed by the team of 23 match officials to enhance consistency.
"Given this proactive approach, a strong team ethic and a superb support structure, World Rugby has every confidence in the team to ensure that Rugby World Cup 2019 delivers the highest levels of accurate, clear and consistent decision-making."
Wallabies wing Hodge has since been cited for the incident and will face a three-man panel chaired by New Zealander Nigel Hampton in the first judiciary of the tournament.
All Blacks captain Kieran Read also escaped sanction for dragging Springbok flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit down by the neck off the ball on Saturday, as referee Jerome Garces and TMO Graham Hughes missed the challenge.