World Rugby; what were you thinking? The whole ethos of rugby refereeing and playing is that the referee’s decision is final. One mistake, and an easy one to make, and you have thrown one of your elite referees under the bus. Very publicly.
Since Joubert made a decision in the dying moments of the Australia vs Scotland quarter-final the world has gone crazy about a call that involved a couple of the more intricate laws of rugby union. Of course more people did not know the details of that law, or the protocols around it, but that did not stop the outrage.
The call was wrong, but how many people could have put their finger on why it was wrong at the time? You would suspect the guy who threw the bottle at Joubert did not.
Prejudice and emotion played its part. All neutrals wanted Scotland to win. On top of the rooting for the underdog factor, northern Hemisphere neutrals wanted Scotland to win to have some representation in the final fortnight. Southern Hemisphere neutrals wanted the Wallabies out of the tournament.
What has followed this has been strange. First of all; the anger that the TMO was not involved; which is something that is still going on. For a start Joubert could not have called for TMO assistance; you can only do that when a try has been scored or there is evidence of foul play. The World Rugby rules, although using a thousand words to do so, clearly state that.
What makes this even stranger is that, from the first game of the tournament, the main criticism has been overuse of the TMO. Change your view to suit the aggrieved.
There has also been the idea that events in the last five minutes of a game are more important than the rest of it, and TMOs should be used for everything then. An idea contrary to all forms of critical analysis.
Then the press release from World Rugby today. They have publicly humiliated Joubert for his one-off mistake. This goes against every principle in all sports, not just rugby.
The sporting body must support its officials in public. They must give them authority on the park, and they must not undermine that. Once you pull the rug out from underneath your officials’ feet then you have a credibility issue.
There were over 320 minutes of rugby played over the weekend; to isolate one bad call is populist, lazy, and succumbing to pressure.
As it happens, Scotland got to that Quarter Final ahead of Japan courtesy of a try against Samoa which featured a knock-on in the build-up. Such is rugby, such is any kind of sport with a human element. Some humility of the game disappeared today.