The 14th Replaced Test Referee
On Saturday in Rome, Andrew Brace of Ireland was refereeing Italy vs New Zealand at the Stadio Olimpico. Injury forced him from the field and he was replaced by Pascal Gaüzère of France, a rare occurrence in rugby football, just the 14th time in Tier 1 Tests since the first one a 106 years ago.
The 30-year-old is an international in his own way. He was born in Cardiff, spent time at University in England, played rugby for Belgium and is registered as an Irish referee.
Fifteen minutes into the match, Braam Steyn of Italy tackled Scott Barrett of New Zealand. Barrett’s impetus took him forward and his back struck Brace’s knee as the referee was following the progress of the movement. The knee was sprayed with a panacea and stoic Brace continued. But nine minutes later Brace went off and, after a long wait for Gaüzère to be electronically fitted out, Brace was replaced. Gaüzère had been the main assistant. His place was now taken by Manuel Bottino of Italy.
Throughout all of this Brace’s face showed no emotion – no pain and no disappointment.
For referees it is intensely disappointing – for Brace more so as this was his biggest appointment in just his second year as a Test referee.
It has not happened often in Test rugby.
The first replacement of a referee in a Test match was in 1912. The replaced referee in that instance was himself a replacement!
South Africa played Ireland at Lansdowne Road. The referee appointed was Frank Potter-Irwin of England, the top referee of his time. He was ill and withdrew. In his place came another famous referee, John Tulloch, the president of the Scottish Rugby Union. He was injured during the match and the great Irish forward, Fred Gardiner took his place.
South Africa won 38-0, then a record for an international.
Gardiner, capped 22 times for Ireland, was really a player who happened to be touch judge, in times when they were touch judges, not assistant referees. The other replacement referees in Test matches were all international referees in their own right.
In those days there were no unattached touch judges. Each team provided a touch judge. In case of an injury the home side’s touch judge would referee.
It did not happen again till 1965. Then France were playing Wales at Colombes Stadium in Paris. The referee was Ronnie Gilliland of Ireland. He burst a blood vessel in his calf with eight minutes to go in the first half and left the field. His place was taken by Bernard Marie, a Frenchman, who became a member of parliament and the mayor of Biarritz, and died just short of 97.
France won 22-13.
There were neither unattached referees nor unattached touch judges during Southern Hemisphere tours when travel was slow and threadbare. So when Pat Murphy left the field with a damaged knee ligament in the third test between South Africa and New Zealand in 1965, he was replaced by inexperienced Alan Taylor, who was a touch judge. In fact Murphy had nearly gone off in the second Test when he first damaged his knee.
South Africa won this dramatic Test 19-16.
In 1970 England played Wales at Twickenham. Robert Calmet of France collided with players and broke a bone in his left leg. He was replaced by the great Johnny Johnson, a policeman who had been a great player.
Wales won 17-13.
Calmet did considerably better than his compatriot, André Cuny at Cardiff Arms Park when Wales played Scotland in 1976. Cuny, a medical doctor from Grenoble and then 48 years of age, damaged a calf muscle when knocked over after 10 minutes in the second half of the match. The captains, Mervyn Davies and Mighty Mouse McLauchlan, suggested that he go off. Merion Joseph, the Welsh touch judge who was a great Test referee, also suggested that he go off. Notoriously, Dr Cluny soldiered on, limping way behind play. Afterwards Cuny said: “As long as I was in a position to observe clearly, I could continue to control play.”
Wales won 28-6. Dr Cluny never again refereed a Test. It was his only one.
In 1973 Ken Pattinson of England was in Paris to referee the match between France and Scotland. He was injured and on came strong, deliberate Francis Palmade of France.
France won 16-13.
Later unattached referees were introduced, and Jim Fleming of Scotland twice replaced an injured referee.
During the 1991 Rugby World Cup he replaced fellow-Scot Brian Robinson when Robinson was injured in the match between Argentina and Western Samoa. Fleming sent off a player from each side, Pedro Sporleder of Argentina and Mata’afa Keenan of Western Samoa.
In 1999 Colin Hawke of New Zealand damaged a calf muscle just before half-time when England played France at Twickenham. Jim Fleming replaced him.
Then we have the case of the replacer and the replacee, the same man.
In 2001, Tappe Henning went off injured when England played France at Twickenham and David McHugh of Ireland replaced him.
McHugh was at it again that year when England played South Africa at Twickenham and he came on for Stuart Dickinson of Australia.
It was not the only time McHugh was involved in replacement. But on the third occasion he was the man replaced. Early in the second half of the Tri-Nations match between South Africa and New Zealand in Durban in 2002, a spectator tackled him as he was setting a scrum. McHugh damaged a shoulder and Chris White of England replaced him. The spectator, Pieter van Zyl of Potchefstroom, was arrested, charged and fined.
In 2003, Pablo Deluca of Argentina was refereeing the match at Murrayfield between Scotland and Wales. He was injured and at half-time a change was made. Tony Spreadbury on England took his place.
The 12th case of referee replacement in a Test happened after only 12 minutes of the Tri-Nations match between South Africa and New Zealand at Ellis Park. Nigel Williams of Wales left the field with a damaged hamstring and was replaced by Donal Courtney of Ireland. South Africa won the Test 40-26.
Romain Poite of France was our 13th referee replaced. He was happily refereeing the Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham, the oldest Test match, when, with 22 minutes to go, he pulled up in distress with a calf injury. His assistant and compatriot Jérôme Garcès replaced him. Once they had sorted out the communications system, the replacement was seamless.
In some places, the replacement referee is miked up before the match – just in case. Not that there are many cases.
Photo: Fred Gardiner