Tuesday 23 January 2018

Ireland hampered by wrong referees and wrong players

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll has words with referee Dave Pearson. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll has words with referee Dave Pearson. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean Diffley

In the realms of famous mysteries, it possibly doesn't quite rank with Poirot trying to work out what happened on the Orient Express. Still, it's well up there among the weird and baffling.

I refer to referee Dave Pearson's failure to award Ireland a try when 50,000 spectators at the French match observed the forwards touching the ball down at the bottom of the post.

The laws of the game are specific on the point. That's a try. Instead, Mr Pearson facilitated play to develop and Tomas O'Leary scored wide out. And the referee dismissed the request of the Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll that the TV official be consulted about the post affair.

Instead, after the TV analysis and the award of the O'Leary try, Jonny Sexton, who had been shaken by a tackle, missed the conversion. If the 'try' at the post been allowed, it would have been a doddle.

History, you might say? But it's not really. It is just another example of the fallible group of referees who are plainly not up to standard.

Romain Poite, who refereed the previous week's Italy v Ireland match, will take charge of a second match, when England take on Scotland in the Calcutta Cup game at Twickenham. Pearson will be a touch-judge in the Italy-Wales match in Rome.

The referee who has seen most action in the Six Nations is the South African Jonathan Kaplan. He will be in charge in Cardiff of the Ireland-Wales match, which will be his only game in the 15 matches of this year's Six Nations.

It will be Kaplan's 17th appearance in this competition and it will also be his 60th Test in all, a refereeing world record. He has refereed Ireland on nine occasions and Ireland have won seven of those matches.

The leading Six Nations referees list at the end of the tournament will show Kaplan at the top of the pile on 17, followed by Alain Rolland 14, Alan Lewis 10, Chris White (England) 9, Mark Lawrence (South Africa) 8 and Nigel Owens (Wales) 8.

The fact that the third most capped referee, Ireland's Lewis, referees no match, but is chosen as the leading touch-judge in three matches, has caused a bit of eyebrow-raising.

The selection of referees, by the way, is overseen on behalf of the International Rugby Board and the Six Nations organisation by the mostly New Zealand-based Paddy O'Brien.

Any more complaints? Yes. The Irish lost to the French not just because of the ref and the team errors. They lost because of poor team selection by Declan Kidney and by the eccentric use of the replacements bench.

In short, reservations about Kidney as Irish coach now loom large. O'Leary was the wrong selection at scrum-half. He and his replacement, Eoin Reddan, are laboured passers.

They are good players, but the obvious choice, Peter Stringer -- the one who can send out world-class useful possession -- was not even in the match-day squad.

And then the most whimsical decision of all, sending on lock Leo Cullen with a couple of minutes to go. What on earth was the intention there? Hoping Leo would manage a miracle of the moving statues, or something?

Irish Independent

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