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The two changes Raynal wants, and his view now of Foley Bledisloe call

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by William West/AFP via Getty Images)

Seasoned French referee Mathieu Raynal has named the two changes he would make in rugby – one a law alteration and the other to do with the timings of the annual June and November international windows. He also revisited his infamous September 2022 Bledisloe Cup call in Melbourne where he penalised Wallabies out-half Bernard Foley for timewasting with a penalty kick to touch, a decision that gave the All Blacks a free from which they scored the winning try.

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Having signed off on the recent Rugby World Cup with an assistant referee appointment for the England versus South Africa semi-final, Raynal is now back on the Top 14 beat and he took time out this week to make a guest appearance on The Rugby Pod, the show hosted by Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton.

Ex-England international Goode would have been playing for Brive when Raynal took charge of his first-ever Top 14 game while former Scotland lock Hamilton was playing for Montpellier in 2013 when the official suffered a double fracture to tibia and fibula, as well as a broken right collarbone and a sprained left ankle.

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Aside from recalling those incidents with the show hosts, Raynal finished his lively interview by answering the question about the rugby law that he wants to change. “One thing in the law so important to me, it’s the law with the substitutions – there are too much subs and they arrive in the second half so that is cutting the flow of the game.

“You have 20 substitutions (sic – 16) in the second half, so honestly if we can have less substitutions for rugby that will in my view create more space so that is so important. And the second one is not a law but if we can swap the November window, if we can play it in the south and the June window in the north in the summer, that will be great because I have spent the last 10 years in the winter,” he quipped.

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Earlier in the interview, Raynal was asked to revisit his decision 14 months ago where he dramatically penalised the Wallabies when they were set to clear to touch in the dying moments of a match they were leading against the All Blacks. That presented New Zealand with the possession they used to engineer the winning score.

“When I make a call and particularly when I have time to make a call, this call I have one minute to make it,” began Rayal, casting his mind back to what unfolded in Melbourne. “I warned the player [Foley] maybe four, five times, so it’s because I’m convinced that is the right one.

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“After I can understand some people disagreeing with me but I trust in what I do, I trust in my process, so after that, what happened in Australia, obviously the press, it was a storm and you are in the middle.

“I delete all the apps off my phone and then I tried to focus on myself and my team to have a good time and to stay away from this noise. I will not go on social media, in press, to try to convince people that I made the right call.

“I just feel good with what I did and after, if people do not agree with me, okay, happy days. But me, I am happy with what I did at this moment. I think it was important not only for not about this game but important for our sport to say okay, to have a line and to say our sport will not cross this line so that was important for myself.”

Raynal also expressed his sadness that Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton is now retired after finishing up playing at the recent World Cup. Asked if was ever daunted by the likes of Sexton, Owen Farrell and other vocal players, the French referee said: “No, because I have a big character too so when I go to ref Johnny or Owen or Dan (Biggar), they know me too, so maybe you can ask the question to them, when you face a big character like Mathieu, how do you prep?

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“I don’t feel weak against this guy. I always work with them. They respect me, I respect them. I trust them, they know exactly what I expect from them, so I am not really disturbed by that.

“Honestly, they are good guys and I am sad to not referee again Johnny Sexton. He has finished his career and after the World Cup that was one reason I was really sad because I refereed him for many years with Ireland, with Leinster. I like him a lot, never had a problem with him.”

  • Click here to listen to this week’s Rugby Pod featuring Mathieu Raynal 
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