Poite blunders make mockery of RWC statement
WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT: French Romain Poite made a mockery of a statement that the ‘highest standards of officiating’ will be maintained.
Refereeing standards at the World Cup were put under the microscope after World Rugby admitted that the inconsistencies of their match officials across the opening weekend of the tournament were ‘unacceptable’.
Just an hour after the World Rugby statement, Poite’s performance – in a bruising encounter between Samoa and Russia in Kumagaya that saw three yellow cards – raised serious questions about the controlling body’s ability to get the message through.
For the first two yellows, both for high tackles, Poite very deliberately followed World Rugby’s new protocol for policing high tackles with the help of his Television Match Official.
Poite called on his TMO Graham Hughes to help adjudicate on two instances of Samoan high tackle foul play just two minutes and 14 seconds apart in the first half in Kumagaya.
Both tackles on Russian skipper Vasily Artemyev resulted in yellow cards for Samoa’s Rey Lee-Lo and Motu Matu’u – despite it appearing on television replays that both incidents merited red cards.
With the clock stopped on 27:28, Poite first considered Lee-Lo’s shoulder connection to the head collision with Artemyev.
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POITE: “Is it foul play? Yes. It is a high tackle? Yes, it is. Is there a direct contact with the head? There is a direct contact on the head which would mean it is a red card against blue player.”
HUGHES: “However, red is dipping.”
POITE: “OK. Show me again then.”
The officials review the footage again before Poite then changes his mind.
POITE: “I agree. You can have a mitigating factor which is the ball carrier just dipping down a little bit and there is no real big force.”
The referee then talks to Lee-Lo before brandishing the yellow card.
POITE: “There is contact on the head with the shoulder but the ball carrier is falling down a little bit. This is the mitigating factor. It is just a yellow card against you.”
Just 134 seconds later, though, with the clock now stopped on 29:42, Poite had to again consult with Hughes after Matu’u clattered into Artemyev’s head with his shoulder.
POITE: “Have we foul play?”
POITE: “Have we a high tackle?”
POITE: “Have we contact direct on the head? Yes, but again 15 Red is falling down. Then it is a yellow card against 2 Blue.”
The referee then called over Matu’u and Samoan skipper Chris Vui to explain his decision and show the yellow card.
POITE: “It is exactly the same one. It is high, there is contact on the head but the mitigating factor is 15 is falling down. Please have a word about your players. They must be better with the tackle. It is another yellow card.”
Poite’s yellow cards are bound to come under scrutiny after World Rugby admitted there was a collective shortfall in refereeing standards across the opening weekend, resulting in much criticism being heaped on the officials.
The third case, an arm around the neck from Russian prop Kirill Gotovtsev, was more clear-cut and Poite reached straight for the yellow card.
“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,” World Rugby said.
“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.”
Earlier in the day, World Rugby issued a rare criticism of refereeing standards at the World Cup, after a number of controversies in the tournament’s opening days.
The governing body said there had been “initial challenges” with technology and communications between match officials at the tournament in Japan.
Several incidents have been missed by officials – and shared widely on social media – since the tournament kicked off on Friday.
“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,” a statement said.
“But World Rugby is confident of the highest standards of officiating moving forward.”
Reece Hodge’s apparent high shot on Fiji’s Peceli Yato went unpunished at the time, but the Australia wing was later cited and will face a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.
Footage of All Blacks captain Kieran Read’s head-high, off-the-ball tackle on South Africa’s Pieter-Steph du Toit, unpunished by officials, has also drawn much comment online.
And Louis Picamoles appeared clearly offside when he made a crucial interception in France’s narrow 23-21 win over Argentina, whose coach later slammed the officiating.
Sources: RugbyPass & AFP