There are some pundits at the Rugby World Cup in Japan who fear the controversy over officiating is detrimental to the tournament. It is anything but. It is just what it needs.
Every time there is an incident, or every time Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika sounds off about the "spirit of the game" being traduced by Fiji or being "embarrassed" as a former player by what he considers to be fussy rulings made on tackles and contact to appease "doctors and lawyers", and "spooking" the referees, it highlights the very issue World Rugby wants to see up in bright lights and strident headlines.
It is still beyond the ken of some coaches and players that this is not a governing body adopting a hardline stance just because it wants to exert its authority for no other reason than to indulge itself in power gestures.
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It is being done because there would be no way back for a sport in which there were four deaths alone in France last season through destructive contact with the head. If there were further fatalities, rugby would stand accused, rightly so, of being negligent if it shrugged its shoulders and hid behind the myopic view that it was a tough game where knocks happen.
That appeared to be the opinion of Wallaby centre Samu Kerevi, who bleated that he might have to switch to league after being penalised for a fend on Wales first-five Rhys Patchell. The Welshman had come in high and Kerevi tucked the ball into him and drove forward, carelessly raising his forearm as he did so. Patchell escaped censure although he was fortunate given that he was upright and could easily have made contact with Kerevi's head.
The outcry from the Wallabies is misplaced. A fend-off is illegal, a hand-off is not. For Cheika to have a dig at doctors for forcing the administrators to take action is lamentable — a slur on their integrity.
Making the game safer is the paramount concern, not the few borderline decisions that cause coaches to get hot and bothered. The end will justify the means. Any confusion will dissipate as on-field decisions become more consistent.
As for claims that there is subliminal racism in play as to who gets penalised and who does not, the fact that Wallaby wing Reece Hodge, with the looks of a Bondi Beach surf dude, was the first to get banned must have escaped the attention. By all means let us bemoan the lot of Pacific Island countries in terms of opportunity and heed too the penalty counts against them, but this rash of citings and sanctions has no basis in the colour of skin or ethnicity.