Rugby's Northern Hemisphere referees are copping a deserved bagging after a few awful decisions at the weekend.

In the wake of blunders by Ireland's George Clancy and Frenchman Pascal Gauzere, there will be inevitable calls to dump northern officials from the Rugby Championship especially as their fitness and ability to keep up with the southern game is often questioned.

But the northern officials need to stay for a few reasons, including that their presence helps New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina prepare for what they face in the all-important World Cup. It's also the job of world rugby to get all the refs and their procedures up to speed, rather than hiding problems. And Southern Hemisphere referees have made their share of howlers over the years.

Gauzere's chief clanger was ruling out an Argentine try, when No8 Leonardo Senatore collected the ball from a legitimate charge down. A converted try to the Pumas would have cut the All Blacks' advantage to 18-13, and put pressure on the home side, whose goalkicking had fallen apart. Who knows what might have resulted?


Gauzere and his fellow officials also failed to deal with a blatant head charge by Tomas Lavanini on Richie McCaw. If such an act isn't outlawed - and I believe that it is - then it should be. McCaw was a sitting target, and the big lock dived headfirst at the head and neck area of the All Black captain, who required medical attention.

Clancy's sinbinning of champion South African wing Bryan Habana for an alleged high tackle was a ridiculous joke which played a huge part in swinging the Perth test Australia's way.

Rugby referees don't have it easy. The game is an unstructured mass of angles and incidents where it is impossible to make decisions that satisfy everyone. The whistlers often do a good job, despite the constant criticism. But they need to get the big decisions, involving points scoring and cards, right.

Too many major stuff-ups - Bismarck Du Plessis' incorrect dismissal by Romain Poite at Eden Park last year springs to mind - are ruining the game's credibility. We the punters are paying good money (in my case it was $160 for last year's Eden Park game) to watch top-class sport, not shams. The players and coaches, who put bodies and careers on the line, deserve better.

Australian attempts humourAustralian rugby has no equal when it comes to talking a game way better than they play it. These guys could talk up a straw house in a hurricane. Come to think of it, maybe they have nothing else to do but clutch at straws.

The latest inductee to this Hall of Cringe is Ross Reynolds, a little-remembered test No8 who took a poke at ageing All Blacks McCaw and Tony Woodcock at the weekend by saying they would be World Cup passengers next year.

In the shadow of an absolutely pathetic Wallaby performance at Eden Park, Reynolds has found a weakness - in the All Blacks. He should be doing standup.

Who knows why Reynolds has suddenly become the voice of rugby across the Ditch. Maybe someone kept ringing former players until they found one who would say something stupid.


McCaw and Woodcock aren't in their prime - we all know that. But McCaw in particular is still capable of terrific efforts way beyond anything possible by most of the current Wallabies. Woodcock is a class scrummager who chimes in around the field and is a dead set superstar compared with the softies who populate the Aussie front row these days. These two guys have had primes that legions of Wallaby players can't even dream of.

Honestly - an ex-Wallaby taking a pot shot at the great McCaw right now? There are so many things that an Aussie commentator could take a dig at including the flakes and passengers running around in yellow and green uniforms.

Is there really nothing more constructive Reynolds can think of, apart from bagging two 100-test men from the best team in the world when your own side's transtasman situation is in such disarray. Who are the world champions? Who stuffed who in the last World Cup semifinals? And what's that Bledisloe Cup score again?

Rain a test dampenerOnce again, rugby has trouble rising in the wet. The All Blacks' ability to find whatever it takes to win never ceases to amaze - they have ruthless skill on tap beyond anything their opponents appear capable of. As for the damp McLean Park test in general though - it made for rather ordinary viewing.