All Blacks boss Steve Hansen criticises refereeing system in rugby after Sean O'Brien's citing dismissal
Steve Hansen has criticised the delay in explaining why Sean O’Brien escaped punishment for a ‘swinging arm’ tackle in the second Test and questioned Mako Vunipola’s motives in diving into Beauden Barrett on the floor.
The All Blacks’ head coach cast doubt on the refereeing system in rugby. “It’s a hell of a job for them to ref because there’s so much happening,” he said at New Zealand’s base in Auckland. “Last Saturday was a pertinent example. No problem with the red card [for Sonny Bill Williams]. You have a guy [Vunipola] who did something he shouldn’t have done, but because he didn’t hit him [Barrett] in the head he wasn’t red carded. We all know what he was trying to do, but you can’t deal with that.
“Then you have a situation where a guy [O’Brien] later gets cited, and we don’t know why he got off. That’s not good for the game. They should just come out, you get told and then say, ‘Well I can accept that or I can’t accept it, but we have to get on with it because that’s what they’ve decided’. Those things should be automatic.”
New Zealand’s coaching and staff and players remain aggrieved that O’Brien was cleared after a lengthy hearing in Wellington without an official explanation being immediately available. They also feel Vunipola was lucky to receive only a yellow card for the second of two offences.
Hansen has wider misgivings about officiating. He said: “Then we ask referees in the game to see off-side, see the ruck. Then we talk about ARs [assistant referees], but they’re all referees and their skill is not watching what they have been asked to watch.
“Their skill is to watch what’s happening at the breakdown because that’s what they do. If we are really genuine we would say, ‘You are the ref, you two are the ARs for the season’. That’s one thing they do well in football, so you’re a team and you get judged as a team.
“I will get into trouble for saying this, but the referees need help because they can’t do what we’re asking them to do, and then they become overly influential in a game. If you have a tight game and it becomes a major factor, you as a fan, you as a journalist, me as a coach, me as a fan, become frustrated by that - and it just chips away at the game. Rather than adding to the game it takes a bit away from it.”
In the New Zealand media, meanwhile, the Lions were accused of deliberate tactical infringements in their 24-21 victory to thwart New Zealand’s try-scoring opportunities.