Rugby World Cup officials came into the spotlight already early on in the tournament. This was sparked after the opening round when Australia took on Fiji. Now World Rugby made an official statement admitting that the pre-tournament directives were not followed through upon by officials as rigidly as expected.
Outcries about the officials’ poor performance were aired after the opening game between Australia and Fiji. During the game, the Wallaby, Reece Hodge, escaped a red card which was due to after a reckless challenge on the flanker for Fiji, Peceli Yato. Yato was left with a concussion. Another incident occurred during the game between France and Argentina when Louis Picamoles got away with what turned out to be a vital interception towards the end of the game while being almost inside the backline of the Pumas.
During the incident with Hodge, the replay system was a reason for concern, and the camera which had a damning angle on his offence wasn’t available for the TMO. It also appears to be a challenge for the match officials to keep up with the tremendous speed at which these games are played. This led to the lack of action against Shalva Sutiashvili when he took out George North while still in the air. This was most definitely a red flag offence because the forward wasn’t attempting to get the ball while in the air, but no action was taken. The game which however caused the most concern thus far is when Argentina made a narrow victory over the Pumas. This led to the outrage of Puma coach, Mario Ledesma, blaming the number of non-decisions as the reason why his team was defeated.
These outcries led to World Rugby going public this week and admitting that the performance of officials is deserving of a yellow card and that they could have done better. They admitted that the performance of officials wasn’t up to the standards expected at this level of play. They also committed themselves to an improved performance for the remainder of the tournament. They also stated that the officials have to make serious decisions during some high-pressure and complex situations. Mention was also made of some challenges which they had initially with the technology as well as poor team communication.
These factors all have a contributing role to decision-making, and these have also been attended to and improved. World Rugby has given their assurance that for the remainder of the tournament higher levels of accuracy and consistent and transparent decision-making can be expected from their officials. They also mentioned the strong team ethic among their officials as well as their proactive support towards delivering the best while being supported by a superb structure. This promise by World Rugby should without a doubt mean that in future the whistle will be blown much more often and cards handed out when needed.