#RWC2019: Japanese briefs: World Rugby issue astonishing statement

Stats suggest Scotland's defence is not all that shaky after all, plus a scouting report on Samoa's World Cup opener

Wayne Barnes
Wayne Barnes was the man in the middle for Scotland's World Cup opener against Ireland. Image: Craig Watson
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DAVID BARNES in KOBE

MATCH OFFICIALS have taken the bold decision of criticising their own performance during the opening rounds of this Rugby World Cup.

Referees, touch judges and television match officials met with Alain Rolland, World Rugby’s high performance manager for match officials, and agreed to go public with an admission that they should have done better.

In a statement released by World Rugby yesterday [Tuesday], they admitted that directives laid down before the tournament, especially those concerning high and reckless tackling and policing the offside line, had not been followed rigorously enough.

This follows a first round of matches in which there was controversy over Australia’s Reece Hodge avoiding a red card for a reckless challenge that left the Fiji flanker Peceli Yato concussed and France’s replacement No 8 Louis Picamoles seizing a vital interception towards the end of the narrow victory over Argentina despite almost being in the Pumas’ backline.

World Rugby has recent form in publicly carpeting officials. Last year, it issued a statement that the television match official (TMO) Glenn Newman was wrong to rule that Gareth Anscombe had not grounded the ball against England at Twickenham, prompting Eddie Jones to question whether it was wise to so undermine an official, and in the 2015 World Cup it said the referee Craig Joubert should not have awarded Australia a late match-winning penalty against Scotland in the quarter-final.

The statement, which was issued with the agreement of Rolland and his official, said:

“Following the usual review of matches, the match officials team recognise that performances over the opening weekend were not consistently of the standards set by World Rugby and themselves, but World Rugby is confident of the highest standards of officiating moving forward.

“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. 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 to ensure that Rugby World Cup 2019 delivers the highest levels of accurate, clear and consistent decision-making.”


The case for Scotland’s defence

A propensity to cough up cheap scores has been one of the major gripes about Scotland’s recent performances, but a stat produced by Twitter’s ‘Top of the Moon’ account tells us that the team has conceded a lower number of average points per match in 2019 than in 24 of the 27 years since the scoring system changed from four to five points for a try in 1992.

The only years Scotland have had a better average points conceded average are 1995, 2009 and 2011.


Samoa scouting report

Scotland’s next opponents Samoa – who they face this coming Monday – got their World Cup campaign up and running yesterday, with a comfortable 34-9 victory over minnows Russia … in the end.

However, the Pacific Islanders didn’t have it all their own way and even trailed 5-6 at the break, having been reduced to 13 men for a period of almost 10 minutes towards the end of the first half when centre Rey Lee-Lo and hooker Motu Matu’u were both sent to the sin-bin in quick succession for wild tackles which left fans and pundits questioning whether French referee Romain Poite had brandished the correct colour card.

Samoa eventually ran away with a bonus point win against an exhausted Russian side who were playing their second game inside a five day window. The opposition may have been dead on their feet, but the sharp handling and powerful running of the victorious side will have left Gregor Townsend and his squad with plenty of food for thought as they prepare for Monday’s must-win pool match.


Eddie makes more friends

Eddie Jones’ ability to get under the opposition’s skin with seemingly throwaway lines has been in evidence again with USA head coach Gary Gold stating that he is mystified by a comment from England’s head coach that the Eagles would play like “15 Donald Trumps” when they meet at the Rugby World Cup.

“I’ve absolutely no idea what he means by that,” Gold said, ahead of Thursday’s game in Kobe. “We’re just a team that’s really got to focus on our own processes at the moment. We’ve got to worry about what we do when we get onto the rugby field.

“At this stage, with all due respect, we’re not a good enough rugby team to be making comments or answers to questions like that. I don’t know what it means.”

Jones made the comment when he was describing how the USA are “going to come out all guns blazing” for the Pool C clash, their opening game of the tournament.

“It’s going to be like 15 Donald Trumps out there, so we’ll have to be on our job, because we know they’re going to give it everything they’ve got,” said the Australian coach.

It wasn’t the only tongue-in-cheek comment from Jones, who also described Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido as “closer to Russia than you probably want to be”.


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About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.