STUART Lancaster and the other England coaches have called into question some of the decisions of the referee Steve Walsh during that absorbing title decider in Cardiff, which only brings them into line with everyone else in the rugby world who has been questioning the Kiwi’s competence for years.
This was generally mocked by the Welsh (and a good few others) and taken as evidence of sour grapes, despite the fact that Walsh has never done England any favours with the whistle in hand, and that includes last weekend. I would actually go further and claim that England rarely get the rub of the green from any referee. There were 12 scrums at which Wales won five penalties and three free kicks. England won one penalty. Only three scrums went the course, which is why the IRB are currently trialling a new “soft” engagement in the Pacific Cup.
England’s front row is probably not quite as good as Graham Rowntree had hoped but Walsh was equally one-eyed when it came to the breakdown, because the ball that earned Alex Cuthbert the first try was clearly won by Ken Owens while Wales’s replacement hooker was off his feet. It should have resulted in an England penalty and Walsh was well-positioned to see the action.
The point is that Walsh was just one of any number of referees who varied from the plum ordinary to the completely useless, with Craig Joubert in the latter category for his hapless and arbitrary whistling of the Scotland-Wales match which included 28 straight-arm penalties. Send someone off early and let everyone else get on with the game, for goodness sake.
And on the subject of yellow cards, why didn’t Wayne Barnes sin bin Rob Harley for upending Peter O’Mahony in a video replay of the tackle that got Geoff Cross ten minutes (and knocked into New Year) against Wales a few years back?
Meanwhile the Mister Magoo Award for Myopia must go to the otherwise competent Nigel Owens, who somehow failed to spot Sean Lamont barging Gael Fickou on to the floor like an American linebacker to allow Matt Scott to progress upfield and carve out a late try for Tim Visser in Paris. Touted as the future of French rugby, Fickou had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes before he was poleaxed off the ball… welcome to the international game, Gael!
The refereeing in the Six Nations has been hopelessly inconsistent and Lancaster is right to point this out, especially when it affects such an important game.