Frustrated All Blacks and Wallabies coaches plead for commonsense

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Israel Folau (l) and David Pocock react as Pascal Gauzere relays the TMO's decision

Frustrated All Blacks and Wallabies coaches Steve Hansen and Michael Cheika have called on World Rugby to tidy up the rules of the game after contentious refereeing decisions marred their June Test series.

“Commonsense should surely prevail,” Hansen said Sunday after the All Blacks third Test against France produced more anguish from Les Blues over decisions that went against them.

The third Test in Australia between the Wallabies and Ireland also ended in a refereeing controversy.

Hansen said it was time the sport’s governing body became more accountable and reactive to feedback from coaches.

“It has got to a point where we have got to do something. Because it is starting to affect the game,” Hansen said, noting that he would probably “get a slap on the knuckles for talking too much” but he believed rugby would benefit by moving with the times.

“I keep saying the game is not black and white. It’s a fluid game which is going to have grey patches and you can’t rule on it as if it is black and white.

“It’s about intention and it’s pretty obvious when someone intends to hurt someone and it’s pretty obvious when they don’t. That’s my opinion.

“They (World Rugby) may see it differently. While we’re busy trying to eradicate concussions and stuff we’ve also got to acknowledge that it’s a contact sport and there’s going to be the odd accident in it.”

France were outraged in the third Test when Irish referee John Lacey accidentally impeded would-be tackler Baptiste Serin when Damian McKenzie scored to put the All Blacks ahead 21-14 at half-time on their way to a 49-14 victory.

They were similarly incensed in the second Test when Australian referee Angus Gardner sent off Benjamin Fall for a collision with Beauden Barrett, although a judicial panel later rescinded the red card.

‘Faster and more fluid’

Wallabies fullback Israel Folau was yellow carded after a similar incident against Ireland on Saturday, and Cheika was further upset when his side were denied an attacking penalty on full-time when they trailed 20-16.

An exasperated Cheika said World Rugby needed to clarify the rules.

“The key word these days is ‘clear’ and ‘obvious’, isn’t it? I don’t know anything that’s clear and obvious in a game of footy. But they run with it,” he said.

Hansen said allegations that referees assisted some teams, notably the All Blacks were “ridiculous”, and it was up to World Rugby to adapt the game to suit the times.

In the case of McKenzie’s try “the French halfback runs into the referee, the referee doesn’t run into him. Cheika’s not happy with how his game was reffed. It’s a difficult game to referee because it’s got faster, it’s really fluid.

“We haven’t really changed the way we ref. We are still doing it the way we used to,” he said adding that in addition to the onfield whistleblower the television match official (TMO) “had a lot to say in it”.

In the third Test, All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell was awarded a try only for the TMO, George Ayoub, to disagree and the try was disallowed.

“I heard the referee say ‘I saw a clear grounding’ and then the try is not awarded. So who is controlling the game?” Hansen asked.

Hansen and Cheika both believed it was important for referees to get more direction and support from the top.

Hansen has previously proposed a “challenge”, similar to many other sports where teams have one or two challenges per game to contest a referee’s decision.

Although he received support from a number of other coaches, the idea was not supported by World Rugby.

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England dominate forward battle and other takeaways from win over South Africa

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Brilliant goal-kicking by Owen Farrell and a superbly created Jonny May try gave England a 25-10 dead-rubber Test victory over South Africa on Saturday, which snapped a six-match losing run.

Here, we take a look at three takeaways from Newlands.

England dominate up front

The Red Rose played the percentages better and looked accurate, putting pressure on the Springboks and forcing them into mistakes. At line-out time the home side looked dominant (91 per cent success in comparison to England’s 67 per cent), but the Red Rose bossed the scrum, with Joe Marler at the fore of their exploits.

The Harlequins man hasn’t had too many opportunities with Mako Vunipola in such strong form over the past 12 months, but he provided that extra bit of spark in Cape Town.

In the back-row, 20-year-old Tom Curry is starting to show that he is finding his feet at this level, getting over the ball and really growing into that number seven role. If Eddie Jones can leave South Africa with some positives then it is Curry’s emergence as he looks towards the autumn.

Cipriani shows some class

If you could pick the worst conditions for Cipriani to make his first start in 10 years then these were those. At times, it was easy to forget the 30-year-old was even playing.

The Gloucester man touched the ball just five times in the first half and was out of the game for large spells of the second. With the wet weather playing havoc, Cipriani didn’t play off first receiver, instead Ben Youngs opting to bring a forward into the system and keep the game tight.

It would have been exciting to see the Cipriani-Owen Farrell axis in full flow, but the howling wind meant he was unable to showcase his natural game. His one moment of class was a cleverly weighted kick through for May’s try on 70 minutes. Would George Ford have been able show the same x-factor?

Conditions slowed down Springboks game plan

Not a classic by any means. The wet Newlands surface made conditions difficult, with the Springboks unable to employ the high pace game from the first two Tests in Ellis Park and Bloemfontein.

Having won the series going into Sunday’s game, they were unable to bring the energy required to match an imposing England attack, with the visitors more ruthless and aggressive.

Rassie Erasmus’ men made some poor decisions with dropped balls and desperate missed tackles, conceding 20 turnovers and 14 penalties in comparison to England’s 11 and six respectively. For all the negativity about the conditions, it was good practice to play in this weather as it could happen in a Rugby World Cup semi-final next year in Japan.

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Johnny Sexton, David Pocock and three other stand-out players from Wallabies v Ireland series

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Ireland signed off from their Grand Slam season with one last high as they edged a tense decider 20-16 in Sydney to claim a first series win in Australia since 1979.

Here, we take a look at five of the stand-out players from the series.

JOHNNY SEXTON

Minutes played: 183 (24, 79,80)

The Leinster man is an inspirational presence and everyone around him plays better and looks more confident any time he is pulling the strings from 10. He held a 84.6% successful rate from the boot (11 from 13) over the course of the three Tests and put the Wallabies under pressure all day with his crisp passing ability, superb game management and clever kicks to touch. Even for a slight figure, he always carries hard into the line, and stepped up to convert the winning penalty when the game was in the melting pot in Sydney. A Trojan-like figure and Ireland’s most important player.

KURTLEY BEALE
Minutes played: 224 (80, 64,80)

One of the Wallabies standout performers. The 29-year-old may have been well contained by Garry Ringrose in the second Test defeat, but in Brisbane and Sydney, he looked dangerous every time he touched the ball, with crucial breaks and ability to put players outside him in formidable attacking positions. At No12, he provides Australia with a diverse attack and solid tackling ability. And with his stock rising, Beale has the chance to build further on his glowing displays in a crucial Rugby World Cup year where Michael Cheika’s side will be bidding to reach the latter stages of the tournament. For all the unreliability about him in recent times, the Waratahs man adds nimble footwork and intelligence to an improving Wallabies attack.

PETER O’MAHONY
Minutes played: 164 (69, 64, 31)

Stood up to the David Pocock challenge and it was disappointing to see him taken off early in the deciding test due to an injury. Led from the front in Melbourne, forcing four turnovers and a crucial line-out steal to his personal ledger. He might lack the pace of other back-row players but the Munster man showed some of his best moments in an Irish jersey in Australia this month. With uncertainty over Rory Best’s availability for next year’s Rugby World Cup, the 29-year-old could be leading the Men in Green in Japan. World class player with a world class attitude to the game.

DAVID POCOCK
Minutes played: 240 (80, 80, 80)

An immense presence to any side. The fearless Brumbies star contested the ruck ball and disrupted Irish line-outs at every opportunity, winning the Wallabies countless penalties and a wealth of possession in a gruelling series. In the first Test, he made seven carries for 10 metres, 15 tackles, won four turnovers, had a staggering 56 ruck involvements, claimed two line outs and scored a try. And although quiet by his own standards in Melbourne, he showed a willingness to win his own ball and lead by example in the third Test when captain Michael Hooper was forced off with a hamstring injury. A high class operator at the breakdown, the 30-year-old will be a force in Japan next September.

TADHG FURLONG
Minutes played: 
170 (32, 71, 67)

The Leinster man delivered powerful performances in Melbourne and Sydney, epitomised by some bursting runs and a crucial try in the second Test. Made 12 carries and beat six defenders in that game, just a small picture of what he brings to the table on any given day. Widely regarded as the best tighthead in the world, he is an imposing presence and always seems to have the edge in the scrum and around the breakdown. The Wallabies pack purred with dominance in the first Test and his addition certainly added pace and sheer brute power to help contain a dynamic Wallabies duo of Scott Sio and Sekope Kepu.

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