Rugby must front up to a refereeing challenge

IAN SNOOK
Last updated 05:00 21/08/2014
Jaco Peyper
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HARSH TREATMENT: South African referee Jaco Peyper gives a yellow card to Beauden Barrett (right) as captain Richie McCaw (left) argues his case in the opening Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney.

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OPINION: The Sydney Bledisloe Cup test shows it's time to follow the example of other codes and introduce a video referral system.

There you go, statistics do lie.

Before the latest Bledisloe Cup test the stats suggested only one team could win.

At the completion of the game the other team had the game statistics behind it which would suggest a victory. In the end neither team won, or they both did. It depends on your view of who was lucky and who wasn't.

That's the fun of it all. No one can truly predict what will happen in a game which requires all 23 players to be competing physically, gelling tactically and in sync mentally.

With the referees being under so much scrutiny nowadays, it is time to be proactive and introduce a challenge system, much the same as they have in hockey, cricket and tennis.

This would provide each team with two opportunities to refer a refereeing decision to the television match official for ratification or dismissal so that crucial judgments have the correct outcomes.

So much is riding on these games that teams should not be punished for human error by a referee who either makes incorrect decisions or no decision at all.

Since every referee wants to be accurate as often as possible, then I'm sure they would welcome this concept.

The clock would be stopped, only two challenges per team would be allowed regardless of the outcome, and if the challenge is ruled as valid, then a scrum would be set where the penalty was awarded or at the last stoppage point. It's all pretty straightforward with the televised games.

Just think back to crucial decisions made in Saturday's test and ask yourself when you would have referred. Would it have been the correct time? Certainly it would require a lot of thought and a competent captain, but surely this step is required, if only to spare the anger following many games and to ensure a major error does not cost a team the match.

As an example, Richie McCaw might have challenged both yellow cards his players received and Michael Hooper might have challenged the Adam Ashley-Cooper grounding for a try. There was also a case in 2007 that more than likely would have been looked at!

Along with the introduction of this system, each half should be extended to 45 minutes to cover for all the time lost as teams try to be smarter than the opposition at scrum time.

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The rain also prompted some interesting thoughts on how rugby might evolve.

With a small halfback and first five-eighth unable to manufacture their normal running game, it was obvious they were not the best choices for the conditions.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow would have provided more muscle and threat behind the ruck and Beauden Barrett would have been a much superior choice outside Kerr-Barlow. If there was some confusion over the forecast, then a large squad could train during the week, with overlapping players, and depending on the weather, a final team could be selected up to two hours before kickoff.

Don't laugh, it's on its way. Sport is serious business these days and teams need to get things right. Professionalism and big money will dictate where rugby heads.

In the meantime, if Australia, who looked full of enthusiasm and confidence in Sydney, can maintain their approach, and produce a greater degree of accuracy, then they will still be in with a chance to win the Bledisloe Cup.

New Zealanders know the All Blacks are never that good in the first test of a series, so they will be thinking hard at how they can retain the trophy.

They more than likely will, with two test wins in a row a big call for Australia.

Ian Snook has coached professionally for the past 25 years in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, Japan and Italy.

- Taranaki Daily News

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