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Pedantic refereeing is 'killing' rugby union says Wallaby great

By Ian Cameron
Taniela Tupou of the Reds prepares during the warm-up before the round 6 Super RugbyAU match between the NSW Waratahs and the Queensland Reds at Stadium Australia (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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Former Wallaby fullback Chris Latham has taken aim at pedantic refereeing in rugby union, which he believes is killing interest in the sport and neutering the physical contest at its core.

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Speaking at media conference prior the Reds Waratahs game, Latham didn’t pull his punches in verbalizing what many fans – both inside and outside of Australia – feel about the direction the sport has taken.

Latham took aim at the handling of a recent citing for Reds prop Taniela Tupou over a clearout. The clearout was deemed to be good on the day in question but was later brought before a SANZAAR disciplinary panel anyway.

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Luckily for the tighthead, it was deemed that the red card threshold has not been met and the citing was dismissed, saving the prop from a two-game suspension.

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The whole thing left a sour taste in Latham’ s mouth, as the Daily Mail Australia reported.

“It was cleared by the video referee, it was cleared by the ref. The commentary team, who are ex-players, they’re experts in the game, they’ve cleared it, yet SANZAAR still want to keep dragging it through.

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“To have that all cleared and then to have the potential to lose one of your big-name players before one of the biggest games of the season is just wrong.”

For Latham, it’s indicative a greater malaise in the 15-man code, which is struggling to hold its audience in Australia.

“From a pure rugby point of view and as a purist of the game, we’re really killing the game with all these stoppages,” said the Latham, who won 78 Wallabies caps.  ‘Rugby’s an inclusive sport. We cater for bigger-boned men and women, the tall and short. If we take the contest out of the game, what do we become – a game that caters for one body shape.

“The beauty of our game is the contest in every element of the game, whether it’s the scrum, the lineout, the breakdown. Even the contest for high ball has become whoever comes off worst gets the penalty, instead of the one who gets the ball, gets the ball.’

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Latham isn’t the only one exasperated by the Tupou citing. Red coach Brad Thorn was spewing over it.

“I had some words I was going to say if it’d gone through; I would have been really unhappy about that,” Thorn said of the Tupou verdict.  “It’s good that common sense prevailed. If you’re going to make rulings around that sort of thing then you need to change the name of the game, call it something else. That was a very good clean out … the people and players enjoy that physicality. You don’t want to lose that.”

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