Rugby, with its intricate laws, is a funny old game at the best of times but the performances of the officials at this World Cup are threatening to turn it into a laughing stock.
It's becoming increasingly evident that perhaps the worst thing World Rugby could have done here in Japan was publically berate the match officials for not doing their jobs properly – especially in the area of foul play.
• 2019 Rugby World Cup: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's message - lay off the referees
• 2019 Rugby World Cup: Australian pundits lash out at referees in loss to Wales
• 2019 Rugby World Cup: Australia coach Michael Cheika takes aim at referees after loss to Wales
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is right; they appear spooked.
Stopping the Wales v Australia game at Tokyo Stadium last night in order to watch near endless replays of Wallabies second-five Samu Kerevi running into replacement Wales first-five Rhys Patchell, and for Kerevi to be penalised for his raised forearm making contact with his opponent's chest, showed a stunning lack of empathy for the players and the game. It was an utter nonsense.
Again, Wallabies skipper Michael Hopper was right when he told referee Romain Poite that Patchell used a poor defensive technique – he was far too upright.
In Australia's first match against Fiji, wing Reece Hodge found himself in a similar position when tackling flanker Peceli Yato and made dangerous contact with Yato's head. And yet here it was Kerevi, who was instinctively protecting himself, who paid the price.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Officials – and in particular referees' boss Alain Rolland, for it is he who must carry the most responsibility for the mess in which the game finds itself - must realise rugby is a dynamic game of constantly moving parts. Many collisions look far worse than they are when slowed on television. Kerevi's contact wasn't dangerous. Common sense has to be applied or this tournament will be remembered for the wrong reasons.
Adding to the surreal nature of it all is the way the offside line is being policed – or not in the case of this World Cup. Virtually anything goes now in terms of defences getting head starts and while Wales halfback Gareth Davies may have been onside when he intercepted Will Genia's pass for the converted try which gave Wales a big scoreboard advantage, he didn't appear to be.
One hopes it got the due attention of television match official Ben Skeen, a New Zealander who was quick to find fault with Kerevi.
Meanwhile, England's Piers Francis, cited for his high shot in the opening moments of his team's game against the USA, escapes punishment for it because it was deemed to have met only a yellow card threshold. Somehow, despite viewers watching replays of it at the time, it wasn't deemed even a penalty by the match officials.
Officials and the judiciary, it's time to show some empathy and consistency. And start policing the offside line so we can get the attacking World Cup the players, spectators and viewers deserve. They've got to lift their game, and Rolland needs to take charge of it.
In private this time.
Love your rugby? Click here to subscribe to our new Premium newsletter for extensive Rugby World Cup coverage.