Rugby Union is institutionally corrupt

Credit: jeanfrancois beausejour.

Credit: jeanfrancois beausejour.

RUGBY Union is an institutionally corrupt sport with no moral compass. The sport at the highest level is too often left in the hands of referees rather than the hands of hard-working players the public pay to watch perform, and the governing body IRB (International Rugby Board) are a disgrace to the game.

When you hear the word ‘rugby’ what goes through your mind? In the most romantic sense I am transported back to Cardiff Arm’s Park on January 27th 1973, home of simultaneously the greatest try Rugby Union has ever seen and the finest words to accompany it by Cliff Morgan, “GARETH EDWARDS…WHAT A SCORE!” The game is now so far removed from that moment that I find it hard to stomach. In fact I will never wilfully watch a game of Rugby Union again.

The rules in Rugby Union are simple. If you play for a big country south of the equator, you get the rub of the green in the biggest of games. You’re always the luckier side. Quarter final weekend Twickenham, the penalty awarded to Australia that won them the game 35-34 was blatantly illegal. Apparently, if an Australian player touches the ball, knocking it backwards and a Scotland player catches it that is now an Australian penalty. No. Those are not the rules everyone else has to play by.

The Scotland player is well within his rights to catch the ball and we play on from there. Lest we forget that this was a World Cup Quarter Final of high-stakes knockout Rugby Union. Win or Bust. With the technology available to prove that the ball came off an Australian hand into Scotland’s possession, all you would have needed to do was to go “upstairs to the TMO (Television Match Official)”. After all, that is why the technology is there. The pundits saw the mistake. Viewers could see the mistake. The IRB have even confirmed that Joubert had made the wrong call when they looked at it post-match.

So why didn’t the TMO get involved? Thanks to the laws of World Rugby. And I quote:

World Rugby law 6.A.7 states: “The referee may consult with assistant referees about matters relating to their duties, the Law relating to foul play or timekeeping and may request assistance related to other aspects of the referees duties including the adjudication of offside.”

This apparent knock-on wasn’t enough for a replay, and Joubert didn’t talk to his assistants. This means, more than any other sport, you’re playing each referees game . How can you have a sport played at this high an international level and have to roll the dice on whose schoolyard rules you play by? The wrong decision was made and there shouldn’t be laws stopping the right decision being spotted, no matter the delay.

However, that would have meant that the reigning Rugby Championship winners of this past summer would have been eliminated from this Rugby World Cup at the quarter-final stage, and the IRB simply cannot have that. The referee Craig Joubert of South Africa scarpered after the final whistle, excuses of “needing the loo” already bouncing around.

Regardless of code, rugby has the gold standard of treatment to referees from players, but their role now is much less the impartial observer of proceedings and more the pawn in the IRB’s geo-political chess game. The 80,000+ fans that were in London on Sunday were short-changed, unless they were wearing green and gold of course. If the IRB’s ongoing conspiracy had been dealt with a hint more subtlety, Craig Joubert could have been awarded the final, despite the previous heavy criticism he came under last time. Instead, this final will fall to Nigel Owens, another legend in his own lunchtime with selective blindness at ruck time.

In 2011 France played New Zealand at Eden Park, Auckland. With the score 5-0 to The All Blacks at the break, Joubert’s ineptitude struck time after time in the second half to ensure New Zealand ended their 24-year wait to regain the sport’s biggest prize, 8-7. New Zealand infringed countless times on the floor in the second 40 minutes and yet nothing was given as Joubert did his patented Stevie Wonder impression.

The IRB dictate the narrative of games that fans pay ridiculous money to watch. Some England fans at The Etihad Stadium in Manchester last Saturday paid over £175 for a ticket for a meaningless pool game between the hosts and the tournament’s only amateur side, Uruguay. The cheapest ticket for the final is £150. That is incorrigible.

The laws are so complicated that before the opening game of the tournament between hosts England and Fiji-themselves plundered and pillaged by the citizenship rule which has allowed their best players to play for other countries, (another story for another time)- they had to explain the laws over the stadium’s loud speaker system. This is before a game at the biggest tournament in the sport. Two things jump out at me here. 1. Shouldn’t people who have paid to watch a game at The World Cup of a sport know what they are paying to watch? And 2. If you have to explain the laws before a World Cup Game don’t you think the game has become a parody of itself?

Those who hold the opposite view to me will point out that Japan’s victory over South Africa in the group stages in Brighton proves that this article is simply residual bitterness against the establishment. I’ll stop you there. Group stage matches are meaningless for everybody except the emerging nations fighting for their qualification for the tournament in four years. Japan are back in Tokyo, for South Africa the destination was Twickenham, so all is well at Izvestia IRB.