SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Referees need to take more accountability

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Referees have a tough job and we all make mistakes, but I’d like to see more accountability from officials… experts are scratching their heads at the inconsistencies

  • Questions have been raised over refereeing decisions at the Rugby World Cup
  • Tom Curry’s red card but no card for Jesse Kriel raises major questions 
  • Fans are hoping for a big England win without disciplinary issues against Japan
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

You cannot argue with the fact there has been inconsistency in the decision-making of the referees at this World Cup, particularly around head contact.

I don’t think the officials have done particularly well so far. That is a shame because, while we’ve seen some great rugby, the application of the laws has become the big talking point.

I’m working with ITV and the former professional referees involved in our World Cup coverage have been left shaking their heads at some of the decisions.

When even the experts aren’t sure what’s going on, I think rugby is in a bit of trouble.

We’ve seen England flanker Tom Curry, Jesse Kriel and Martin Sigren all involved in high tackles or head contacts. Then, on Thursday night, France’s Romain Taofifenua escaped a red card and spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for a high shot. Similar incidents, different punishments.

England’s Tom Curry was sent off for this dangerous challenge on Argentina’s Juan Mallia 

Curry received a red and was banned for two matches but in an almost exact replica of his head contact against Argentina, South Africa ‘s Jesse Kriel didn’t receive any sanction at all

Curry was sent off and banned for two matches but in an almost exact replica of his head contact against Argentina, South Africa’s Kriel didn’t receive any sanction at all.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend was understandably furious not to see Kriel receive any kind of card when his team met the Springboks.

Rugby got the Kriel incident badly, badly wrong and left themselves open to ridicule as a result.

It is not just high tackles that are the issue though. In the Wales and Fiji game, I couldn’t believe referee Matthew Carley did not hand Warren Gatland’s side more yellow cards late in the game when they were under huge pressure. If I was the Fiji coach, I’d have gone absolutely crazy in the press conference. I wouldn’t have let that issue die.

Fiji didn’t lose that game on the last play when Semi Radradra dropped that pass. They lost it when Carley didn’t send more Welsh players to the sin bin.

I don’t know what he was thinking.

Referees have a tough job and we all make mistakes. But what I’d like to see is more accountability and the people who make the decisions on the field — as well as those in disciplinary panels off it — front up and explain why they have made them. I don’t see why the media shouldn’t be allowed to speak to referees or match officials after the game.

I think that would add some much-needed transparency.

It would also give fans — who are confused by what’s going on — some understanding of how these decisions are being reached.

Hopefully, the focus on the refereeing decreases in the pool matches this weekend.

England did not appeal Curry’s punishment, as they will now be able to call upon the Sale flanker when they need him most later in the tournament in a smart move from the Red Rose

Billy Vunipola’s return negates some of the impact of Curry’s absence, for the game vs Japan 

England face Japan in Nice tomorrow and there is now a sense of excitement about what the team can achieve in France. It is amazing what one game can do.

Everywhere I’ve gone after the opening win over Argentina, people have been telling me that England now have a chance of doing something promising at this World Cup.

That’s not to say they are going to win it. But from where the team was at last month, the turnaround has been remarkable.

Japan is now the only game that matters. I’m delighted Steve Borthwick has kept faith with those who did the business against Argentina. Lewis Ludlam is a logical replacement for the banned Curry and props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler have both come in.

But with where England are at right now, they can’t afford to make wholesale changes.

England can’t get too far ahead of themselves. But I hope the Argentina win amounts to a huge turning point.

Steve Borthwick can then rotate his squad the following week when England take on Chile

England got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start with victory against Argentina

We saw France make 12 changes for Thursday’s clash with Uruguay and struggle badly. I must point out though I thought the South Americans were fantastic.

Wales have also made 13 changes for Portugal on Saturday.

At a World Cup you have to make use of your whole squad but so many changes can derail continuity and England aren’t in a position to do that right now.

The round-three game against Chile is the one to do that because with all due respect to them, England should win that game comfortably regardless of who starts. England’s win over Argentina felt like a knock-out game. It was that big. And that’s the mentality that Borthwick and his players need to have for the remainder of the tournament.

Japan are not the same side as four years ago when they caused some big shocks at their home World Cup by beating Ireland and Scotland.

They don’t play with the same speed as they did then and England should move to two wins from two on the Cote d’Azur.

What I want to see is a victory, a strong attacking display, and hopefully no cards.

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