As has been the case throughout the sporting world in 2020, codes have had to adjust to the environment created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For test rugby, it means local referees have been tasked with calling games involving their home country.
It’s a tricky position to be in and, as All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree said, one that only adds to the pressure of performing at the highest level.
“The local referees referee us a lot,” Plumtree said. “They know us and we know why it puts pressure on the referee – because it’s based around being biased or whatever.”
On one side, there were some no-calls that ultimately hurt the Wallabies’ chance to steal a famous victory in last Sunday’s 16-all draw in the opening Bledisloe Cup test.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 13, 2020
On the other, plenty has been made about the lack of calls around off-the-ball incidents and late hits first five-eighth Richie Mo’unga copped from Wallabies defenders, all of which went unpunished.
“There were some late charges, you guys saw all that, and there were one or two other incidents, but All Blacks don’t cry – we just get on with it; we adjust to how the game is being refereed and that’s in every department,” Plumtree said.
“There’s always going to be big talking moments in test matches, and probably one of the bigger talking moments were some of the late hits, off-the-ball incidents and that. We’ve seen it all before in these Bledisloe Cup games, haven’t we?
“We knew that was coming. That kind of play on the field has to be dealt to by the referees. There were several occasions where there were some off-ball incidents but it’s got to be dealt with properly on the field. But we’ve got to be able to adjust to that as well and I think that’s probably why you have a couple of senior players in particular fired up about it.
“If (referee) Paul (Williams) missed stuff, then he’s missed it. But if it’s a consistent habit that he’s seeing and it’s not being looked after, then obviously we’d be disappointed. We haven’t had those conversations with the referee. It is what it is; if their intent is greater than ours around the ball incidents, then we just have to make sure we have a crack back at them.”
The physicality of the Wallabies was something the All Blacks expected going into the opening Bledisloe Cup match, however they weren’t able to match it on the day.
Midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown admitted there probably wasn’t a single player in the All Blacks team who was happy with their performance on the night, but that was providing plenty of fuel to the fire heading into this weekend’s meeting at Eden Park.
“We thought we prepared really well, but for some reason it wasn’t quite there in the game. The beauty is that we’ve played them now, we know how they’re going to play and we’ll adjust a few things. We now know what’s required to go out there and compete,” Lienert-Brown said.
“I think that’s the most disappointing thing, that we talked about it all week but we didn’t match the intent or physicality. But hey, that’s good for us that this week it’s going to be sitting in our belly and it’s something we’ve got to get right.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now