Rugby World Cup 2015: Referee got penalty call wrong, says World Rugby

World Rugby has released a statement saying that South African referee Craig Joubert erred in giving Australia the 79th minute penalty that enabled Bernard Foley to kick the goal that sank them 35-34 in yesterday’s World Cup quarter-final.



Referee Craig Joubert was heavily criticised for the decision. Source: Reuters

It’s a further slap down to Joubert who has been pilloried for his decision and it ignores the fact that, despite Nick Phipps insisting that he was competing desperately for the ball, does not appear to know where the ball was when he deflected it in the arm of Scottish prop Jon Welsh, the man penalised for being offside.

In its statement, World Rugby said that a player can be put on-side by an opponent who “intentionally” plays the ball. How officials can stipulate that Phipps intentionally played at the ball when it whizzes past him off Josh Strauss is just another unfathomable ruling by the sport’s governing body.

The match official’s committee recommended that a scrum should have been set, with Australia having the feed, instead of the penalty. That means Australia would have had less than two minutes — or indeed more if they did not hand the ball over — to score a try, kick a field goal or indeed force a penalty.

Nick Phipps is tackled by Richie Vernon and Sean Lamont as the rain pours down. Credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Despite Joubert’s apparent error, the result stands and Australia is through to a semi-final against Argentina at Twickenham on Sunday. Scotland, sadly, was eliminated from the World Cup.

The full World Rugby press release reads:

‘Following a full review of match officials’ performance, the World Rugby match official selection committee has clarified the decision made by referee Craig Joubert to award a penalty to Australia for offside in the 78th minute of the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter-final between Australia and Scotland at Twickenham.

The selection committee confirms that Joubert applied World Rugby Law 11.7 penalising Scotland’s Jon Welsh, who had played the ball following a knock-on by a team-mate, resulting in an offside.

On review of all available angles, it is clear that after the knock-on, the ball was touched by Australia’s Nick Phipps and Law 11.3(c) states that a player can be put on-side by an opponent who intentionally plays the ball.

It is important to clarify that, under the protocols, the referee could not refer to the television match official in this case and therefore had to rely on what he saw in real time. In this case, Law 11.3(c) should have been applied, putting Welsh onside. The appropriate decision, therefore, should have been a scrum to Australia for the original knock-on.

Overall, it is widely recognised that the standard of officiating at Rugby World Cup 2015 has been very high across 44 compelling and competitive matches to date.’

World Rugby High Performance Match Official Manager Joël Jutge said: “Despite this experience, Craig has been and remains a world-class referee and an important member of our team.”

All match official performances are thoroughly reviewed and assessed by the World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee comprising John Jeffrey (Chairman), Lyndon Bray (SANZAR), Andrew Cole (SANZAR), Donal Courtney (EPCR), Clayton Thomas (Six Nations) and World Rugby High Performance Match Official Manager Joël Jutge.

England’s Wayne Barnes will take charge of Australia’s semi-final against Argentina, and Jérôme Garcès will oversee New Zealand v South Africa.