World Rugby were praised on Tuesday for releasing a statement saying the standard of refereeing so far this World Cup has not been at the standard expected.
Certain instances over the first four days of the tournament have led to widespread censure of the officiating and perhaps required World Rugby to take action.
However, mere hours after the statement, referee Romain Poite caused more controversy by awarding Samoa two yellow cards for two tackles against Russia that have been unanimously deemed red cards by pundits and fans.
Outside centre Rey Lee-Lo was on the verge of being awarded a red card in the first half by Poite for a tackle to the head of Russia’s full-back Vasily Artemyev. However, the television match official downgraded it to a yellow card because the offence was mitigated by the full-back dipping into the tackle.
Only a matter of minutes later, hooker Motu Matu’u saw a yellow card as well for a hit at the ruck which was worse than Lee-Lo’s. Once again, the player that was hit was deemed to have dipped, although that is much more controversial as the player had already dipped as Matu’u was running to hit him.
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The game seemed to become farcical at this point, and fans on Twitter were outraged that there was not at least one red card from those two challenges. Although Poite was set to award a red card for the first tackle, the excuse that the players may have been dipping does not seem to be acceptable for many fans.
This would have always been controversial given how bad the tackles were, but the timing is almost risible, as this was the first game after World Rugby’s statement and it will only draw more attention to the officials. This is what has been said:
I've been so impressed with @russiarugby in this #RWC. No doubt Samoa should have had at least 1 red card in this match (2 IMO), which may have changed the outcome. @Scotlandteam players should take to the pitch against Samoa wearing NFL helmets! #RUSvSAM
— Fraser Sinclair (@FraserSinky) September 24, 2019
Two red card tackles by Samoa overlooked by the referee- bad for the game which is lop sided against the tier 2 teams anyway. Decided to turn over and watch something else.
— steve Jones (@skjones505) September 24, 2019
— Blake (@blake_lyons93) September 24, 2019
How have Samoa managed to get away without a red card BOTH TIMES?! The first I can almost understand, but this time the player was bent over the whole time! Where's the mitigation?! #RWC19
— Felicity Baldwin (@Clumsyflic) September 24, 2019
@rugbyworldcup – Where did u find these #referees!?!?! #Samoa dangerous hightackle on #Russian player RED CARD applies!!!!!!!. #Referees are a joke! All of them. No #consistency. #Rules only applies to some players and some teams.
— ?Deon M van Heerden? (@DMvHeerden) September 24, 2019
— ?? Fraoch is skiving (@Calluna_Vulga) September 24, 2019
Is it just me or do the French refs have a different rule book?? Please explain how the second Samoa yellow wasn’t red ?? #rugbyworldcup2019
— Rob Bessinger (@rob_bessinger) September 24, 2019
Samoa should have had at least two red cards, Russia got beaten by the officials today. Becoming a constant theme of this world cup
— Banjo Thomas (@BenjiTsher) September 24, 2019
Samoa ran out winners 34-9 in the end, despite Russia leading 6-5 at half-time, but it could have been a completely different story had they been down to 13 men during the second half, particularly with Lee-Lo scoring a try.
The officiating has been one of the key topics of the RWC so far and this game will only add fuel to the fire.
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