Bring in the white card

Truly horrific stuff from Clancy and Gauzère! Rugby is desperately calling out for a white card that allows the captain or coach to challenge a referee’s decision and make officialdom a more collaborative affair.

Tank Lanning in a column for the Ultimate Rugby App

Two games of international rugby involving the 3 top ranked sides in the world, and what are people talking about over their Sunday morning post toasties? The bloody officiating!

In Perth the howlers from George Clancy (calling Duane Vermeulen’s tackle on James slipper high, and yellow carding Bryan Habana for a high tackle on Adam Ashley-Cooper) were result influencing, while Pascal Gauzère’s not knowing that a charge down is not a knock on is ineptness not worthy of even an amateur referee, or cheating.

Not only does it ruin the spectacle in the most frustrating way possible, but also fuels the “Different rules for the All Blacks” and “Home town refereeing” fires already so pervasive in discussions on the game.

Anything from the IRB on this? Of course not. They are too busy changing their name and spitting out reams and reams of information on the World Cup, a full 12 months prior to the mighty Fiji taking on England.

Complete silence from the IRB’s head of referees, Joël Jutge, who knows that all his merry little whistle-men are wrapped in cotton wool given the protected species policy that disallows coaches or players from saying anything bad about a referee.

Given the debacle that was the Romain Poite red carding of Bismarck du Plessis last year for a second yellow card as a result of the tackle by Du Plessis on Dan Carter (later to be expunged as it was rightfully deemed to be within the laws of the game), this whole protected species thing looks a little pathetic and toothless from the IRB.

Jutge – French, Poite – French, Gauzère – French. It’s not looking particularly good is it? Apart from Nigel Owens, without doubt the best referee in the world, are the Northern Hemisphere referees up to scratch?

Should Clancy or Gauzère really be allowed to referee a game again without some sort of public intervention? I am not calling for a public tar and feathering, but I do think it fair that we get to hear how Jutge is handling this, in the unlikely event that he is actually doing something, that is.

I have long said that the game’s laws are too complex and open to subjective interpretation for one man to handle. Bring in a second referee, allow the TMO to get more involved in the officiating, and encourage a collaborative approach.

This showing of incidents on the big screen and allowing the match referee to make calls from that is a move in the opposite direction. The TMO is the screen referee. Let him make the calls. Too much power rests with the match day referee at the moment, hence the subjectivity. And hence the dog show come scrum time. Both sides of the scrum need scrutinising, thus the need for 2 referees.

The game is also desperately calling out for a white card that allows the captain or coach to challenge a referee’s decision. I would suggest 2 per team per game, with the challenge remaining intact if it is successful. Varsity Cup trialled it successfully a few years back and they are bringing it back for next year’s tournament.

Involving the TMO more comes with it’s own problems – there have been some dreadful calls from the TV refs of late, but a collaborative approach which includes coaches and captains should at least minimise subjectivity and reign in referees who think the match is about them.


  1. The laws of rugby have become so numerous and complex, it is no wonder the referees are losing the plot. Before long players will need to have above a certain IQ score to make the team. As a spectator, half the time I have no idea what is being blown for, and I’ve been watching rugby for over 50 years! I feel like suggesting we scrap everything back to the “nie-uitskopreël” and start anew 🙂

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