ANY GIVEN MONDAY
Not all superheroes wear capes and underpants over their tights.
Some of them pair too-short shorts with naff polo shorts.
Oh, and one, in particular, is Australian. Sorry.
Meet the hero this World Cup needed – Angus Gardner.
The whistler was in control of Japan's monumental upset of Ireland, a result few outside of Jamie Joseph's sect saw coming.
Gardner played his part, too, for all the right reasons, but don't tell Joe Schmidt that.
The biggest blight on modern rugby is not the high tackle, the scrum resets or even the fog-shrouded world of the breakdown. There are safety elements that need to be addressed in all three of these facets (and to rugby's credit they do seem to be taking safety seriously), but none destroy the spectacle for the spectator like the offside line.
More specifically, nothing destroys rugby quite as effectively as the rush defence allied to an offside line that is not being properly policed.
The rush defence on its own is a risk-reward strategy. While it can be brutally effective at shutting down backline attacks and sending everything back inside, it can also create opportunities for teams whose playmakers have a varied kicking game.
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The rush defence when you get a head start? That's close to impossible to unlock and it's where Ireland lives. On Saturday, it was where they died - and if you love footy for footy's sake, you should be happy about that.
Gardner is one of the few refs to police the line vigilantly. He should be congratulated for his services to rugby – but he won't be.
It may be the worst place to get your analysis, but apparently there has been a lot of angst on Twitface about Gardner's performance particularly by those posting with an O' in front of their names.
Ireland coach Schmidt, in his typically understated way, only fanned the flames. Only the 9-6 penalty count was not extravagantly skewed in Japan's favour but it was the nature of the offences that caused him angst.
"Maybe three or four of [the penalties] were for offsides that we felt were pretty tough. I do feel that they could have gone either way."
At which point it is fair to ask: "If they could have gone either way, why did you keep rolling the dice?"
Contrast Gardner's strict control of the line with that of Romain Poite in the weekend's other extraordinary match.
Poite and his assistants were hyper-vigilant when it came to high contact, even, in one bizarre instance, when it was the ball-carrier, but they were fast and loose with the offside line.
Wales' halfback Gareth Davies was the chief beneficiary, securing a "miracle" intercept straight out of counterpart Will Genia's hands. When you're snatching intercepts before the ball gets to the first receiver you know you have reached the pinnacle of "awesome line speed".
Again, as a neutral, it's hard to have too many complaints with Poite. It was a thrilling match; a brilliant antidote to some of the one-sided dross that has scarred the tournament's opening week.
Predictably, however, Poite is not being handed any bouquets, which just highlights the futility of the rugby referee.
Anybody who was watching that match wearing canary yellow probably feels a bit ripped off. This phenomenon is not restricted to this weekend; it occurs every single time there is a close game of rugby and often when it isn't even close.
This is where we are now with rugby. More than that, it is where we are now in society. It's a point Michael Lewis makes wonderfully well in a recent podcast series called Against the Rules .
Lewis has an enormous brain and a capacity for turning complex concepts into wonderfully engaging stories – think Moneyball and The Big Short for example.
In Against the Rules , he takes aim at fairness. In particular, he trains his sights on a world where everyone loves to hate the referees, whether they are judges, financial regulators, media ombudsmen or those involved in sport.
We live in a world now, he argues, where the mantra is "don't pick a side unless it's my side".
Sports has now moved to a situation where, through the (over)use of video technology, we have officials in booths officiating onfield officials.
While you will get no argument from me about using technology to "assist" referees and to rectify obvious blunders, Lewis skillfully argues that by placing an adjudicator above the on-field referee you are effectively telling everybody watching and everybody playing that those in charge of the game might not be fair.
This attitude starts to permeate everything and frame every discussion around the game.
We didn't lose because we sucked; we lost because it was unfair.
That's exactly where we are at this World Cup.
Never a truer word was spoken than that by Michael Cheika in the aftermath of the Wallabies loss. He said that the game's bosses were "spooking" the referees. He's right, and the refs have every reason to be spooked.
After all, Gardner should be hailed as a hero. Instead, in large part, he's been talked about as a villain.
Life's just not fair.
THE MONDAY LONG LISTEN ...
Here is said Lewis podcast. Ref, You Suck! is episode one.
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