World rugby has a problem. It's serious and it needs to be fixed. Too many big games are being compromised by poor refereeing.

It's been this way for too long. For the last few years, probably longer, referees have made themselves an avoidable part of the post-match analysis.

Bad refereeing is a recurring theme in rugby: poor, but highly influential decisions have been a never-ending story.

There have been some absolute shockers - like Romain Poite's horror night at Eden Park in 2013 when he wrongly sent off Bismarck du Plessis.


Jaco Peyper has had a few - in 2014 when he had charge of the first Bledisloe Cup game and in November last year when the All Blacks played Ireland.

Craig Joubert possibly topped the lot with his handling of the 2014 Super Rugby final and then the disaster that was the World Cup quarter-final where Scotland were knocked out by a penalty that never should have been awarded.

There has to be respect for referees.

There has to be an appreciation for the difficulty of the job they have.

But so too does there have to be acknowledgement that too many referees are out of their depth.

Someone, somewhere needs to say what everyone can see - that the professional game is being crippled by officiating that rarely makes sense and is littered with basic errors.

Coaches aren't allowed to say what they really think of a refereeing performance - so they either say nothing, riddle away in euphemisms or place the blame on the complexity of the rule book is blamed.

The rules do need to be simplified - that's true, but more often or not in the last few years, games have been marred, badly affected, by poor refereeing.


It's that simple - too many referees just aren't up to it. They are erratic, inconsistent and prone to letting pressure get the better of them.

That's been the case in the last two games played by the Lions.

The referees in question - Pascal Gauzere and Mathieu Raynal - gave the impression they were guessing half the time.

They never imbued in the players a sense of confidence.

They had bad games, made too many bad calls that had nothing to do with the rule book.

Gauzere, who had charge of the Blues game, saw CJ Stander wrap a swinging arm around Steven Luatua's jaw and awarded just a penalty. No card.


He let Liam Williams take Matt Duffie out in the air, and again no card. When Williams did the same thing again two minutes later, Gauzere was ready to forgive him again until the assistant referee intervened.

Raynal was worse. Much worse.

His handling of the scrum was an embarrassment. He had no idea what was happening or what he wanted. Or if he did know what he wanted, he couldn't make his point clearly to the Crusaders. It bordered on farce and suited neither team.

Luke Romano no doubt wanted to say with no ambiguity that he thought the referee was a goose when it came to handling the scrums, but like his coach and captain, he had to be diplomatic.

"Coming out of Super Rugby with the refs there, we're allowed to lean and pre-engage. The ref tonight, he didn't want that and he's a Northern Hemisphere ref. We were finding it hard to adjust to that, but he's the man with the whistle and the one who interprets the rules."

There were at least three other times when Raynal ignored the advice of his assistants, he missed the fact Owen Farrell kicked a perfectly good penalty and he refused to consider that both sides might have set their defensive lines in front of the hind feet and were offside most of the night rather than generating truly miraculous linespeed.


Both sets of players deserve better: they have proven themselves as among the best in the world and yet there they were, giving everything they had in close to sub-zero temperatures trying to figure what some half-wit with a whistle was doing randomly ordering about.

It is a tough job refereeing at the top level. But it's not impossible. Those men assigned to games involving the Lions over the next few weeks just need to perform better.