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Craig Joubert ‘made mistake’ awarding Australia penalty against Scotland

World Rugby has conceded that the controversial decision by Craig Joubert to award Australia a penalty in the dying moments of their late victory over Scotland was wrong but the referee has been defended by many in the game.

Joubert has become persona non grata in the aftermath of the Wallabies’ 35-34 win at Twickenham on Sunday after running off the pitch at the final whistle to a chorus of boos shortly after Bernard Foley had kicked the crucial points to send Scotland out.

Gavin Hastings, the former Scotland international, described Joubert’s swift exit as a “disgrace” and World Rugby admitted that a scrum should have been awarded to Australia rather than a penalty. However, the organisation stated that rules prevented Joubert – who had a bottle thrown towards him at Twickenham – from referring the incident to the television match official (TMO).

There was never any possibility that the match would be replayed, and now Scotland are left to accept that they lost out on a World Cup semi-final place by the narrowest of possible margins thanks to a refereeing error.

A statement read: “The selection committee confirms that Joubert applied World Rugby Law 11.7 penalising Scotland’s Jon Welsh, who had played the ball following a knock-on by a team-mate, resulting in an offside. On review of all available angles, it is clear that after the knock-on, the ball was touched by Australia’s Nick Phipps and Law 11.3(c) states that a player can be put on-side by an opponent who intentionally plays the ball.

“It is important to clarify that, under the protocols, the referee could not refer to the television match official in this case and therefore had to rely on what he saw in real time. In this case Law 11.3(c) should have been applied, putting Welsh onside. The appropriate decision, therefore, should have been a scrum to Australia for the original knock-on.”

The World Rugby chief executive, Brett Gosper, defended Joubert, although he had earlier joked that the referee’s quick exit was because he needed the toilet. Lawrence Dallaglio also questioned some of the strong criticism of Joubert.

“There are highly paid professional rugby players out there making mistakes and dropping balls but of course they don’t get as vilified as match officials do,” said Gosper. “It’s a very, very tough job and I don’t think there’s a tougher job.

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“It will all be talked through and what I would say is the standard of refereeing in this tournament overall has been exceptionally high. Joubert’s one of our finest referees, is a good man. Mistakes can happen. There’s a human element still.”

Dallaglio added: “I am not terribly impressed with some of the comments aimed towards Craig Joubert. By rugby players, mostly former. You don’t need to say that. He knows he has made a mistake, we know he has made a mistake and it has cost Scotland a place in the semi-final.”

Gosper confirmed that the role of the TMO would be reviewed after the tournament but that the type of incidents which can be reviewed during matches will not change during the World Cup.

He said: “We will review everything after this tournament. It is interesting that at the beginning of the tournament everyone thought there was too much TMO and suddenly at the end there is not enough. If we TMO’d every decision a ref made we would be here all night. You do have to draw the line, the balance has to be found between the critical TMO calls and the ones that are in the referee’s domain.”

The World Rugby high performance match official manager, Joël Jutge, said: “Despite this experience Craig has been and remains a world-class referee and an important member of our team.”

Brett Gosper was speaking at Beyond Rugby, part of the Beyond Sport Summit and Awards


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