Rugby: Murray Mexted wary of referees ahead of Lions tour following Beauden Barrett yellow cards

By Alex McLeod

Beauden Barrett watches on after being yellow carded against the Waratahs at Westpac Stadium in Wellington earlier this month. Photo / Getty Images.
Beauden Barrett watches on after being yellow carded against the Waratahs at Westpac Stadium in Wellington earlier this month. Photo / Getty Images.

Former All Blacks captain Murray Mexted has criticised recent performances from Super Rugby referees following the sin binning of Hurricanes playmaker Beauden Barrett against the Blues last weekend.

Barrett was shown a yellow card by referee Michael Fraser after he was deemed to have deliberately knocked the ball down in an attempted intercept during his side's 28-24 win over the Auckland-based franchise at Eden Park on Saturday evening.

The sin bin was Barrett's third in two weeks, after having received two yellow cards - resulting in a red card - during the Hurricanes' previous match against the Waratahs a fortnight ago.

Speaking to Martin Devlin on Radio Sport, Mexted said he disagreed with Fraser's decision to sin bin the 2016 World Rugby Player of the Year.

"There are numerous examples of similar things that have been happening in every game to what he's [Barrett] doing," the 34-test All Black said.

"Is somebody out there saying 'we can't let this guy be so good? Let's try and find some fault with him. If he puts a finger out of line let's nail him to the floorboards'?

"I mean it's bloody ridiculous really because this game is about entertainment, isn't it? It's about having followers, having lots of people sitting in the grandstands, people watching television. That's what it's all about, enjoying the game."

The 63-year-old stated that Barrett's sin binning came down to "stupid little bloody rules and regulations that are marginal" which prevent fans from enjoying matches.

Mexted went on to say that he was concerned that this standard of refereeing would affect the matches in the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour in June and July.

"[When] Super Rugby came on the scene, it was very clear [that] the statements were this type of rugby," he said.

"It's called Super Rugby and it's going to be entertaining. We're going to play a good brand of rugby and the referees are going to enter in the spirit of the game and let it flow, and it has, and it's flowed for many years now.

"That's quite contrary to test match rugby or northern hemisphere rugby where it really does seem to be controlled by the laws and regulations of the game and officious refereeing.

"Down under during the Lions series, I don't know. Is it going to be over-officious refereeing, restricting the flow of the game and the natural dynamics that we now have in the game of rugby?

"I certainly hope it doesn't, I certainly hope there's some sensibility here.

"This could be a sensational tour with the best of the northern hemisphere with the five Super Rugby teams, the All Blacks three times and the New Zealand Maori.

"I think the scene is set for a wonderful exhibition of rugby. I just hope that they allow it to go."

The Lions will play 10 matches while touring New Zealand throughout June and July, where they will play three tests against the All Blacks, all five Super Rugby sides, the Maori All Blacks and the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians across a five week period.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland is set to announce his 37-man squad for the series on Thursday morning (NZT).

- NZ Herald

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