WTalking of the George Clancy issue

Fiji was the first to arrive in Auckland New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup 2011. Fiji has been under an intense development programme and is the favorites among the pacific islanders to reach the quarter final stage .Fiji comes early with the head of the country's rugby union unable to follow them because of a New Zealand government ban. The Fijians have in a political tug-of-war and New Zealand have banned those with ties to the Pacific nation's military or government from entering the country following the 2006 military coup.

These stories add some essence in flavoring the run up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup. These will be the least worry in terms of rugby. Critics have expressed concern of professional foul play. Taking a cue from the recent test matches and the Tri- Nations tournament there is concern expressed about the planned and well executed professional foul that takes place and referees have not picked it up. These have lead to tries being scored. These have ended in scores that have made the difference. Can you blame the referee as there is part of the blame need to be apportioned to the coaches as well as players? Some would say the job of the coaches and players is to win matches. If they do what they do and get away with it; what about it?

These incidents happen at the breakdown point when you obstruct or hold on to the opposition players. It also happens during back division moves when you pass and run across to obstruct the defense getting to the player with the ball. This happens very often in Sri Lanka.

Referee George Clancy in action

The break up and fringing around the break down to create a shield so that the defense is obstructed is another one that has been done well and worked for some. How far will this affect the world cup has and is being discussed.

Another issue that has been discussed was the decision taken by referee George Clancy in the match New Zealand and South Africa to disallow a try based on a TMO call. The decision as argued is correct but outside what the TMO is supposed to rule. O’Brien IRB referee manger has quoted as saying "They were wrong. I've asked for a reply from both of them and I haven't received one, as yet. They are expected to stick to our protocols and the message will be loud and clear come the World Cup, or come this week's Test matches, that there will be consequences for officials that go outside the protocols. That's why they're in place."

Whereas Andre Watson the South Africa Referee Manager stated “What we want is the right decision. It was clear that the pass was forward and if the try had been allowed we [referees] would have looked a bunch of fools. Protocols are important and we should try to stick to them but they are essentially guidelines and I'd rather apologize for what happened than get the wrong answer."

The decision given outside the protocol of the TMO leads to a question of can we rely on the video for a forward pass? Definitely the main reason is that camera angles are very unreliable for ruling a forward pass, especially when you take into account momentum: The fact that when a ball is passed by a player at speed, it will always be received ahead of where it was passed. (If you want to get a better view see Rugby Union "Forward Pass" video available on You Tube). The issue here is that there is motion (speed) of a player passing the ball, the motion of the ball as well as the motion of the receiver. Therefore the angle of the ball between two players will be forward due to the relative velocity.
We find this argument at home as coaches, parents or officials bring a video mostly filmed from one camera and one angle to find a fault with a referee. Worse is that at times they may bring a 3 inch screen that a parent brings along.

It is not an easy job out there even at this level of the game. Whose fault was it is the question. I initially think the fault is with the TMO who should never have offered the extra information, knowing that it was outside his scope. However, once he had offered it to the referee, the referee should have asked if it was information pertaining to the player being in touch, or in-goal, and then refused the extra information when told no. was pushed into a corner once the TMO said . If George had said no, whilst being right in protocol, he would have been hounded by the South African's if NZ had gone on to win for not declining a try from a forward pass,. Now he is hounded by the New Zealanders because he did accept the information.

Go back to the last world cup where the Kiwis raised a lot of fuss because Wayne Barnes and his assistants failed to see a forward pass that led to France winning the game. Now they stand angry this time as an official has picked it up and the right decision was made? Whatever the thoughts of the masses, you can understand the frustration, as they have twice been on the wrong side of these officiating errors. On the other hand where do the officials stand. Always wrong?
Recently during junior games I was asked whether you can clean our fringing players I though you cannot because you are taking out players without the ball. Now I think these are a result of watching the application of foul play professionally.

Coaches’ even at senior level will argue that some of the infringements are allowed in International matches. The reason I believe is that referees miss same because it is executed so well. That however does not mean that the referee was right. Repeated infringements are galore in Sri Lanka. Most of them are offside at Ruck and Maul. it may be done very clumsily and yet you blame the referee as he hands over a yellow.

Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB

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