Scotland’s captain Greig Laidlaw, left, points as SA referee Craig Joubert, right, runs off the pitch (AP)
Twickenham – World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper insisted Sunday the governing body had not meant for Craig Joubert to be “thrown under a bus” after his contentious World Cup penalty call.
In the biggest controversy of the six-week tournament, South African referee Joubert came under fire after awarding a last-gasp penalty for offside, kicked by Bernard Foley, that gave Australia — on the brink of suffering a shock defeat — a 35-34 quarter-final win over Scotland.
The match was Joubert’s last of the tournament, with Australia reaching the final before losing 34-17 to New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.
In the furore that surrounded the decision, World Rugby were then criticised for taking the unusual step of issuing a statement saying Joubert, in charge of the 2011 World Cup final, had got it wrong.
“We made a clarification,” Gosper told reporters at a Twickenham press conference on Sunday.
“If there’s any regret, it’s the perception we may have thrown him (Joubert) under a bus, which certainly wasn’t our intent.
“There were questions asked around TMO (television match official) protocol at the time, ‘could you use it, could you not use it?'”
The Australian added: “It was normal for us to go on and talk about the incident itself, in a transparent way. It was normal for us to then say there was a mistake made.
“Craig Joubert is a world-class referee, he continues to be one of our top referees.
“Referees, like players, make mistakes. That was one.
“The perception was not where we would have perhaps liked it.”
Existing rules meant Joubert was unable to call upon the TMO in this instance, with the use of replay adjudication currently restricted to the build-up to scoring a try and foul play.
In the opening match of the World Cup, England’s win over Fiji, Joubert’s fellow-South African Jaco Peyper was criticised for using the TMO too often, amid general complaints that replays were causing needlessly long delays to games and robbing match officials of the confidence to make their own decisions.
“The refereeing and the use of the TMO
“These things evolve, as does technology, so as with any part of the tournament, we will look at this aspect and see if any adjustments need to be made.”
Joubert’s decision and his action in sprinting off the field come full-time at Twickenham, provoked a storm of protest.
Former England scrumhalf Matt Dawson, a World Cup-winner in 2003, tweeted: “Craig Joubert you are a disgrace and should never referee again!!”
But Australia coach Michael Cheika, who had cause to regret a couple of calls made by Welsh referee Nigel Owens in the final, sympathised with Joubert amid concerns that World Rugby’s statement risked opening a floodgate of complaints.
“It’s so unfair,” said Cheika. “No other referee has had this stuff put out there like that and he’s a very good referee.”
Wallaby great David Campese was even more scathing, saying: “Whoever put that statement out saying the referee got it wrong should be shot.”