Owen Doyle: Officials must be clearer on forward passes

Officials are in danger of misleading themselves by using lines to assist in judgements

The last series of pool matches brought a lot of mixed emotions. Here we go.

Japan v Scotland, total wonderment at the pace Japan can inject into their game. Impossible to resist. Stunning tries.

Don’t forget Scotland played their part too, producing a memorable second half performance despite the mountain they had to climb.

After Japan’s bonus point try they were on 28 points, leaving Scotland needing a minimum of 36 points, and Japan not to score again. They fell 15 points short, despite losing by only seven.


Thank goodness this match was played, how could we have been denied this spectacle? We weren’t, and if there are any supporters in Scotland or Ireland who can argue the group placings, then they haven’t been watching what the rest of us have.

And we know that Ireland are facing New Zealand not because of a referee decision which gifted Japan a bonus point, rather – as it should be – because the best team in the group have won it.

And Jamie Joseph, what a coach.

Some may nit-pick this and that around referee Ben O’Keefe’s performance, but that would be nonsensical, he was very good, calm and understated. He let the players play, and they decided this match. Hats off.

The next feeling is one of relief, Ireland have picked themselves up, even though Samoa were not good.

A performance of momentum and pace in a match very well refereed by Australian Nic Berry.

And Ireland did it, despite being down to 14, from minute 28.

The red card is, I understand, to be vigorously contested with a lawyer flying from Dublin to enter a defence.

Therefore, rather than give my opinion now I’m going to treat the issue as sub-judice, and revert to it later in the week.

If the red card is dismissed, Bundee Aki is free to play. If not he’ll get six weeks, mitigated to three, going by precedent.

Wales v Fiji was notable for the number and length of TMO referrals, with Ben Skeen very keen to contribute. One very tight try decision did take time, but the first half had 15 minutes of TMO involvement. Ridiculous.

It was very damaging to continuity with Fiji’s high paced momentum game being inevitably slowed.

Fiji can otherwise feel hard done by Jerome Garces. In the 52nd minute, Wales number seven is sin-binned; Fiji kick the resultant penalty to the corner. They drive the lineout maul towards the Wales goal-line and it’s collapsed. Correct penalty try, but no yellow card. Fiji are now leading 17-14, and Wales should be down to 13 players for the next 10 minutes.

Wales were a lot more than fortunate.

Uruguay were next up for Wales. What a fight they put up, but Wales ran out very easy winners in the end.

Just as well, as it’s no pleasure to report a very disappointing performance from referee Angus Gardner. He’s had a poor tournament, and continued robust selection should see him miss the Six Nations.

Both teams were denied a first half try by an incorrect forward pass decision.

The breakdown saw a policy of ‘laissez-faire.’

Uruguay lived off side particularly in the first half when Wales had over 70 per cent territory, but no space to exploit it. Fair enough, their handling didn’t help either.

Unexpectedly, forward passes must be referenced. Very marginal calls have suddenly appeared and we have listened to match officials referencing the whitewashed lines to assist in making these judgements. It's wrong and officials are in danger of misleading themselves.

Here’s why:

If the ball carrier crosses, for example, the opponents’ 22m line as he passes the ball, laterally or backwards to a teammate, then that ball will often be caught on the far side of the 22m line.

It’s called relative velocity – the ball will naturally travel forward over the ground, because the player is running forward. If a tackle stops the ball carrier in his tracks the visual effect is greater.

Assistants who are standing still need to think very carefully about calling these, they seem drawn to watching the flight of the ball. And when the assistant is running with play he has the correct perspective and not calling. TMOs need to take care over persuasive intrusion.

Utilising a convenient white line to decide or assist the decision is wrong.

The only criterion for judging a pass to be forward is “did the ball leave the passer’s hands in a forward direction?”

If not, get on with it, play on.

This is written as Typhoon Hagibis has done it’s worst. Our thoughts now must be with the Japanese people, as they recover from this ordeal the world of rugby, and beyond, is with them.

In remarkable comments a smiling Eddie Jones stated that while England had prepared well to play France, the cancellation of the match may have been the typhoon gods smiling on his team.

Those gods smile on nobody.

England may be good enough to be the winners, but their coach’s bizarre attempt at humour has let them down.

Finally, there’ll be plenty of time later to analyse the rights and wrongs of cancelled matches and their effect on the success and credibility of this World Cup. And, my word, they will be analysed.

That’ll just be the starting point.