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'Despite clearly being the least mobile of the four quarter-final referees, Nigel Owens remains without peer'

By Paul Smith
Rugby referee Nigel Owens and Peter O'Mahony (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It’s a shame World Rugby’s match official selection panel have decided to punish Jaco Peyper for striking his Sebastien Vahaamahina-like pose with Wales fans following last Sunday’s quarter-final in Oita.


Standing down the South African from being considered for duty next weekend over a tongue-in-cheek picture is a hard sentence as Peyper otherwise did his prospects of refereeing the England versus New Zealand semi-final no harm whatsoever. 

His matter-of-fact, clear, concise style was perfectly suited to a quarter-final game which could have exploded in the second half.

Quite what possessed Vahaamahina to plant an elbow in Aaron Wainwright’s face is known only to him, with even his head coach Jacques Brunel immediately acknowledging the inevitable sending off which resulted.

World Rugby’s one concern surrounding the incident will relate to the haphazard process by which Peyper and TMO Marius Jonker reached the decision since the pair seemed only to become aware of the incident retrospectively. 

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Indeed, a penalty awarded for the French lock’s initial headlock on Wainwright had been kicked to touch and the players were heading for the ensuing lineout before the officials spotted the red card offence on a giant screen replay.

The debate regarding scrum-half Tomos Williams’ rip of the ball to create Ross Moriarty’s late clincher will doubtless rage for years to come since depending on which camera is viewed, the ball’s flight is lateral or slightly forward. 


Nonetheless, the officials followed a logical process and with Peyper having such a clear on-field view, Jonker required irrefutable evidence if the referee’s original try award was to be overturned.

It was on the Sunday night in Japan when the main threat to Peyper’s semi-final prospects subsequently emerged, the referee pictured post-match with a group of Welsh fans jokingly pointing his elbow towards a face. 

In the current politically correct, social media-obsessed world, Peyper clearly was guilty of poor judgement, but surely nothing more? World Rugby’s enquiry concluded differently, however, and he has been sidelined for semi-final weekend. 

Jerome Garces is another referee whose star is very much in the ascendant following his superb display during England’s win over Australia.



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Referee Peyper taking a snap with some Wales fans ?? #RWC2019

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The French official’s communication with both players and his colleagues was exemplary. In particular, his firm overrule of Kiwi TMO Ben Skeen who, to the ears of many, is far too keen to interject and attempt to control rather than advise the referee. Garces’ reward? The whistle for next Sunday’s game between South Africa and Wales. 

Meanwhile, 2015 final referee Owens did little to reduce his chances of emulating Andre Watson by whistling a second final, albeit he is now clearly the least mobile of the four quarter-final referees. To balance this, in a hard-fought contest requiring plenty of management control – which a semi-final or final will be – he remains without peer.

Refereeing bores all around the world will have enjoyed his correction of TMO Graham Hughes’ minor misinterpretation of law – “No, Graham, he has to be behind the player not the ball” – while a couple of players received the now familiar Owens’ ticking off.

The only other point of interest related to Matt Todd’s sin-binning. A review may show that while the correct outcome was reached, the All Black replacement was in fact guilty of either a no-arms tackle or not rolling away on the ground rather than the offside for which the yellow card was shown.

The talking points from Wayne Barnes’ generally sound performance during South Africa’s ultimately comfortable win over host nation Japan related to his non-use of the TMO.

While this approach keeps play moving and avoids needless stoppages, it is also fraught with danger should subsequent TV replays reveal something significant has been missed.

Two decisions merit discussion in this respect. The yellow card given for Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira’s tip tackle was correct based on directives since the tackled player landed on his side/shoulder.

However, it seems likely that a TMO review would have allowed the try which South African centre Damian de Allende had chalked off on the stroke of half-time.

WATCH: Eddie Jones claims England were spied on at training on Tuesday

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