A FORMER New Zealand international referee last night offered a solution to rugby's red card crisis which ruined the France/Wales World Cup semi-final on Saturday.
The instant dismissal of Wales captain Sam Warburton in the 17th minute wrecked the semi-final as a spectacle and caused massive controversy. Wales did brilliantly to come so close with 14 men for more than an hour. They eventually slipped to a 9-8 defeat.
As Welsh coach Warren Gatland said: "Had we knocked over a few more points (Wales missed 14 through kicks at goal that failed) it would have been the most heroic victory in the history of the Rugby World Cup."
Wales were incensed that Irish referee Alain Rolland gave a red, not yellow card, to Warburton. But in Auckland yesterday Paul Honiss, ex-New Zealand Test referee, put forward a simple answer to such problems in the game.
Honiss said: "An instant judicial review system needs to be put in place in the game. It could be the answer to these types of situations."
Honiss, who refereed 46 Test matches, a record for a Kiwi official when he retired, advocated a player in such a situation be auto- matically sin-binned for the mandatory 10 minutes.
He said that in that period of time, a proper rugby judicial review should be conducted of the incident in question. Senior officials who would normally adjudicate could be employed at the game to study video coverage of the incident and make a decision on whether it should have been a red or yellow card shown.
"In such a case, a player could either go back onto the field if the disciplinary officer felt that the original offence had merited no more than a yellow card. Or, if he felt it should have been a red card, the player would stay off the field."
Honiss's point would certainly have been fairer on Warburton.
Welsh fans spent the weekend lamenting a huge missed chance of reaching the final.
However, Warburton was yesterday banned for three weeks for the offence.
Former Welsh scrum-half Gareth Edwards praised the progress of several of the young Welsh players at this tournament.
Edwards said: "No 8 Toby Faletau defied his age. Then there was Luke Charteris who put his body on the line. Jamie Roberts kept on bashing through the French defence and Mike Phillips took his chances. I have never before seen 14 men outplay 15 in rugby."
France will meet New Zealand in the final at Eden Park next Sunday after the latter crushed Australia with ruthless power and precision.