The England defence coach, John Mitchell, has claimed World Cup officials are taking too long deliberating over decisions at the tournament and fears introducing more technology to help referees could make matters worse.
Mitchell was referring to Wales’s victory against Australia on Sunday which featured Rhys Patchell’s controversial tackle on Samu Kerevi, who was penalised for challenging his opponent with his forearm. The incident subsequently caused a storm with the Australia head coach, Michael Cheika, claiming he was “embarrassed” by the confusion surrounding World Rugby’s crackdown on high tackles and Kerevi suggesting that rugby had gone “soft”.
From the initial break in play to Patchell slotting the penalty there was a delay of more than five minutes, while during the first half of England’s opening match against Tonga there were four incidents referred to the TMO before half-time, leading to a first half of nearly an hour and denying Mitchell’s side the chance to find much rhythm. Indeed, they did not score a bonus-point try until the 77th minute.
This week, however, the World Rugby vice-president Agustín Pichot revealed the governing body is exploring the possibility of employing Hawk-Eye technology in an effort to police the offside line with a number of blatant incidents missed by officials in Japan. Four years ago the opening rounds of the World Cup were plagued by the large number of TMO referrals, however, which led to increased delays and frustration among supporters.
“The only thing I would say is that as fans of the game, if there’s going to be large debates about decisions – like that case the other day – let’s make sure those large amounts of time where there’s a debate around something are focused on priorities as opposed to just taking a long time,” Mitchell said. “We’re seeing more and more stoppages in the game and I don’t think that’s going to stop. That’s the only thing, there’s a huge amount of stoppages.”
Mitchell also insisted that England were not serial offenders when it comes to straying offside, revealing he comes down hard on those who transgress and even keeps a record of those who do. “It’s a really big part of our behaviour in terms of staying onside, its something we work a lot on and work very hard on should an individual transgress in that area,” he added. “We even measure it, that’s how critical we are in terms of wanting to make sure that we get that right. We’re a big believer in the half-yard that we take gives us the chance to create more speed anyway as a defensive line.”
The England fly-half George Ford said: “Our aim is to be whiter than white because the thing we’ve seen is that one penalty can change the momentum of the game massively. A lot of them are coming from offside, so a lot of them are probably coming from the collision area as well. It’s something we want to be ultra disciplined in.”