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Heartbroken Wales left with haunting feeling

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Tom Fordyce | 15:27 UK time, Saturday, 15 October 2011

Eden Park, Auckland

There are hard-luck stories in sport, and then there are the real hauntings.

Wales' one-point defeat by France in this tumultuous World Cup semi-final was the sort of horrible heartbreaker that could leave Welshmen sleepless at night until the Severn flows uphill and Cardiff crumbles into the sea.

Most close-fought contests have their fair share of almosts and nearlys. This 9-8 loss had all of those, and enough whys, if onlys and what ifs to drive a man to madness and back before breakfast.

Wales players show their dejection after their semi-final loss to France. Picture: Getty

What if Stephen Jones's straightforward conversion of Mike Phillips's try had gone over, rather than hitting the post? Why did the ground have to give way under James Hook's standing leg as he prepared to stroke over a penalty? So nearly did Leigh Halfpenny's late long-range penalty attempt clear the crossbar that hearts stopped beating from Auckland to Anglesey.

Overshadowing every single one of those incidents was the single most controversial decision of the entire tournament so far: referee Alain Rolland's decision to send off Sam Warburton, Welsh skipper and turnover tornado, for dangerous play.

Some red cards stand out a mile. To those of us watching from the stands, this was not immediately one of them.

When the 23-year-old up-ended Vincent Clerc with 18 minutes gone, most of us winced a little and wondered if a sin-binning might follow. That Rolland went straight for red instead led to first confusion - did that really happen? - and then hands-on-head shock.

That it changed the course of the match is beyond doubt. Whether Rolland made the right decision is not.

It was to law 10.4 (j) that most first turned: "Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player's feet are still off the ground such that the player's head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play."

Warburton certainly appeared to lift Clerc. Beyond that we enter into a maze of interpretation and nuance that will lead to bitter arguments for years.

On 8 June 2009, the IRB's Paddy O'Brien sent out a memorandum to his referees with the subject line 'Dangerous Tackles'.

"In 2007, the IRB Council approved a ruling," it read, "which essentially made it clear that tackles involving a player being lifted off the ground and tipped horizontally and were then either forced or dropped to the ground are illegal and constitute dangerous play.

"At a subsequent IRB high performance seminar referees were advised that for these types of tackles they were to start at red card as a sanction and work backwards. Unfortunately these types of tackles are still being made and the purpose of this memorandum is to emphasise that they must be dealt with severely by referees."

If that explains the background to Rolland's red, it doesn't end the debate.

"There was no malicious intent," insisted a stony-faced Warburton afterwards. "I thought it was a normal tackle. As soon as I hit him I felt like his body weight took control of what happened. I'm devastated."

The repercussions of Warburton's tackle were pivotal to the outcome of the game. Picture: Reuters

Rolland would be within his rights to ignore any such plea. At the bottom of O'Brien's memorandum was another key paragraph.

"Referees...should not make their decisions based on what they consider was the intention of the offending player. Their decision should be based on an objective assessment (as per Law 10.4) of the circumstances of the tackle."

So, according to the strict letter of the law, Rolland was perfectly entitled to pull out the red. Whether dogged observance should come before sensible stewardship or the sporting spectacle is another matter.

"It was a travesty for the competition," fumed an incandescent Shaun Edwards. "The team that should be playing in the World Cup final next Sunday won't be."

Warren Gatland was scarcely more restrained. "I just feel hollow," he said. "I feel our destiny was taken away from us in the 17th minute. Having looked at it, we accept Sam's lifted him and it probably warrants a yellow card. But he lets him go - he doesn't drive him into the ground."

Rolland himself can hardly be accused of being inconsistent. In a Heineken Cup match at the start of this year he sent off Toulouse's Florian Fritz for a tackle on Wasps's Tom Varndell that was certainly no worse than Warburton's.

Unfortunately not all officials enforce O'Brien's ruling so enthusiastically. There have been at least three similar tackles in this World Cup that have not led to red cards.

Rolland appeared to consider neither the implications of his decision on the contest nor the extenuating context - young player, huge game, early in the script. Where others may have taken a moment to consult the touch-judges or glance at the giant screens, the Irishman could think only of the rule-book.

Wales should still, remarkably, have won. To land just one kick from seven - including two drop-goal attempts - defies belief, even in such soggy and stressful circumstances. To not work a drop-goal attempt in 26 phases at the death was a baffling waste.

That it is France who will now contest the World Cup final is one of rugby's less logical stories. Coach Marc Lievremont referred afterwards to a "guardian angel" looking after his team; others imagined a whole army of them.

No team has won the World Cup after losing in the pool stages and France went down twice, once in such abject fashion that there seemed to be no return.

As World Cup turnarounds go it surpasses even England's renaissance four years ago.
For most of this tournament France haven't been so much dark horses as a pile of pony.

Saturday's stats underline the larceny. Despite being a man down for three-quarters of the game, Wales enjoyed 59% of possession and 60% territory. France offered so little attacking threat that Edwards' well-drilled defence had to make less than half as many tackles as Les Bleus.

Of the much-vaunted off-loading game there was almost no sign, just a solitary one from the tackle all night long. Mercurial skills in the backs? 11 handling errors.

You could argue that Lievremont's men played sensible rugby against 14 men - kicking deep, taking no risks, doing just what they had to do and no more. But where twice before they have illuminated World Cups with stunning semi-final wins - 1987 and 1999 - this was grind before glamour, fortune in place of flair.

"We didn't feel at any stage that France offered us any threat on attack," said Gatland. "I think they kicked the ball about 38 times. I just hope they play more rugby in the final."

Under Gatland's shrewd stewardship this Welsh side should have a bright future. The older stagers like Gethin Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones, Mike Phillips and Adam Jones have looked back to their Lions best, while the young blades will continue to cut a swathe.

Balanced against that must be the sense of lost opportunity. World Cup semi-finals don't come along very often - about every quarter of a century, according to Welsh history. To be so close, with such an exciting team in such fabulous form and against such an eminently beatable opponent, will not happen again easily.

Next spring's Six Nations offers the first opportunity for succour. Until then the wounds are likely to stay raw, those frozen moments replaying over and over again in heads and hearts.

Half a metre to the right for Jones. Half a metre further on for Halfpenny. What if, what if, what if...

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I think the red card was incredibly harsh, but on the other hand Wales did rather shoot themselves in the foot with the kicking stats, not to mention their repeated insistence on trying to run up the sidelines and inviting the French to shove them repeatedly out of bounds.

    It's a shame they couldn't win the game, but ultimately you have to look beyond the sending off.

  • Comment number 2.

    Tough, i have just read the ruling re spear tackles as ammended in 2010 and the ref had every right to send him off it is there in black and white so lets all move on.

  • Comment number 3.

    According to the IRB laws, Warburton deserved to go. It WAS a spear tackle. He lifted the guy up and contravened the law when he dropped him. It has nothing to do with sport as a spectacle. The laws are there to be obeyed. The irony is Warburton got away with a similar tackle on Ferris last week. But even with 14 men, Wales would have won this game had they kicked at least one of four goal attempts. They played superbly well and it is sad they will not be contesting the final. Apart from their defence, which was outstanding, France were awful.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Implying referees cheat is a sad reflection on our beloved game. For sure, they make mistakes. They are human. But I would suggest rugby referees without exception do not favour one side over another. Why would they? Their careers would be jeopardised. And what would be the benefit to them? There is not the multi-million pound betting there is in soccer and cricket so no potential financial gain.

  • Comment number 7.

    I remeber the spear tackle when the all blacks played the Lions. There was uproar that the offending players where not red carded. Now it happens to Wales in a semi and there is uproar for the unfairness. But the fact was the law is the law. I dont like Roland generally, but he got this right and ruled many things in Wales favour (the penealty against France on the halfway line when the welsh player was playing the ball on the ground).

    This sort of tackle is dangerous and better control is needed by professional rugby players to avoid potential career ending tackles. Wales threw the chance away to go through to the finals against a mediocre French side which I cant see lifting the Webb Ellis trophy. In the last few minutes Wales played stupid rugby and should have had a drop goal chance but held on till the inevitable turn over occured.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Tom, each of the similar tackles you have mentioned resulted in citings and bans because they were judged to be red cards.

  • Comment number 10.

    People need to move on from this. The referee had every right to show a red card. It's just a shame that this is how the game will be remembered as Wales have played a great tournament.
    Watching the highlights on ITV and listening to the SA commentator whine about the referee's call.. sounds about right :)

  • Comment number 11.

    It was a harsh decision, and it did have a huge influence on the outcome, but according to the laws of the game, it was also a correct decision. The spirit of the law is that if you lift a players legs above the horizontal, you are responsible for making sure that player is returned to the ground safely. Warburton clearly did the former but not the latter, albeit with no malice, and therefore deserved at least a yellow. Fortunatley in this case Clerc escaped without serious injury.


    Had a french forward tackled shane williams and dropped him in the same way, the Welsh fans would have been baying for a red card - just as the Lions fans were when O'Driscoll was the victim of a similar tackle.

    Why do ITV insist on employing pundits, who despite their glittering playing careers, appear to be ignorant of the laws of the game. All of the studio guests were contsantly talking about whether there was any intent, despite the fact that the IRB have made it very clear that there doesn't need to be. Given they are presumably well paid for their analysis, they could at least bother to do some research.

    Well done tp Wales on matching their best ever world cup, and playing some great rugby -particularly against Fiji and Ireland, and a brave effort against France, although that should be balanced against the fact that they failed to beat any teams from the top 6 in the world rankings..

  • Comment number 12.

    Pretty poor from you Tom, considering your usual high standard. You have failed to take into account the obvious and damaging ramifications the adding off had on the game. The impact was huge. You simply cannot bemoan Wales' missed kicks as if treating the situation they were attempted in as normal. It's ludricrous. One stupid decision from a trigger happy referee has robbed the world of the final they wanted to see. I find it hard to believe or assume that Wales would have had no ontger scoring opportunities had Warburton come back on after 10 minutes. A poor French side and a poorer referee have now constituted to what will probably one of the poorest World Cup Final spectacles we have yet seen. Technology needs to be called into question again for the umpteenth time, but I can't even be bothered to start with that. We've been shortchanged and there is no use or sense in trying to justify te French victory. An awful day for world rugby.

  • Comment number 13.

    Even though there was no malice intended, Warburton dropped Clerc. A tackler has the responsibility of making sure the player he tackles gets to ground safely. He did not. You could call it a rush of blood, a young player getting a little carried away in the most important game of his career so far.

    Common sense would perhaps dictate that a word, a sin-bin and carrying on would have been the best course of action. That said, the ref was within his rights to send him off due to the dangerous nature of the tackle.

  • Comment number 14.

    It was the worst match of the WC. I can't see either side surviving the onslaught of the winner from the southern hemisphere in the final. The performance of both teams today didn't deserve the quality of rugby one expects in a semi-final. What a yawn. Looking forward to the real "Final" of the WC tomorrow.

  • Comment number 15.

    Was the sending off harsh? Perhaps. Was it within the rules and a fair possible interpretation of them? yes. All that nonsense of 'oh you shouldn't send him off as it ruins the spectacle' is ridiculous whatever the stage rules are rules and if Rolland thought he did enough to be sent off then he shouldn't be influenced by the stage of the competition.

    Well done France you defended well and are now in the finals.

  • Comment number 16.

    4. At 16:53 15th Oct 2011, ScotsSevensNutjob wrote:
    Wikipedia:
    "Alain Rolland, whose father is French, speaks fluent French, making him an 'ideal neutral' referee for matches involving teams from English-speaking countries and France."

    Of course, if you were French you could argue that allowing a referee from the Magners League to ref a Wales game gives Wales an unfair advantage due to teh fact that the interpretation of the rules varies it different leagues.

    Glad to see the Welsh fans showing their usual grace in defeat, following on from the pre-game arrogance. Most Wales fans seemed to believe that the semi against France was a formality. Wonder if Sky managed to track down those fans they showed on SSN this morning boasting that Wales would score at least 5 tries,

  • Comment number 17.

    Roland interprets the law differently from other referees in the tournament that will bring his heritage in to sharp focus. Referees must be and, more importantly, be seen to be neutral. The officials who selected Roland for this match did the whole of rugby union a grave dis-service. It is they who must be held accountable for bringing the game in to disrepute but they will hide behind Roland like the cowards they are.

  • Comment number 18.

    Excellent player, man of the tournament, no intent, impeccable record, rotten luck, impacted the game but per laws and instructions it was a Red-Card. Wales could still have won by a convincing margin if they'd have made their kicks and on performance thus far should be in the final, but they are not - that's the game. I note that various journalists were trying to draw negative comment on the Ref and his red-card decision from the dejected, emotionally drained Welsh players but to their continued credit they would not be drawn. From an Englishman - well done boys - you have graced this World Cup - we look forward to seeing you together again. I just hope that our (English) set-up has learned something from you.

  • Comment number 19.

    "Rolland appeared to consider neither the implications of his decision on the contest nor the extenuating context - young player, huge game, early in the script."

    What on earth has this got to do with it? The player was the team's captain, so should know better, and the rules are the same regardless of whether or not its at the start or finish of the game, or indeed a semi-final.

    Rob Jones and Ian Robertson both agreed on 5live today that the decision was correct, and the ref had little choice, they did question the fact that the rule and guidelines did not allow the ref to use "common sense", and made no allowance for intent.

    Many have stated that the ref wasted the game as a spectacle. That is nonsense as if anyone "wasted" the game it was Warburton for carrying out the tackle in the first place.

    That said, Wales only have themselves to blame as they made too many errors, both with the boot and with the ball in hand.

  • Comment number 20.

    A real shame that refereeing decisions in two crucial knock-out games have put a real damper on a World cup that every rugby fan has been waiting longingly for.
    As an Englishman I never thought I would be cheering on the Welsh but I was really gutted for them. The welsh side have been a joy to watch and have played the game in the spirit that the game was intended.

  • Comment number 21.

    aside from the red card (will cover that later).Wales should have won that, not withstanding Hooks slip and Halfpennys near miss and Jones hitting the post..they should have gone for the drop goal, and I believe Phillips was screaming for Jones to get into the pocket,instead he too it forward and lost the ball..did he choke, and as for the last 20 odd phases, bit more punch and they could have nicked the game, and every one now knows Wales like to take it down the short side to open the game out..simple to defend by pushing players into touch just as the French did...did Wales deserve to be in the final,probably yes...did they get there no..as for red card..laws of the game were adhered to and as for Shaun Edwards' comment..why should wales be in the final..they shouldn't as they lost the semi final..that is knock out rugby

  • Comment number 22.

    I agree with Dr_John_B about the ITV pundits. But ITV's entire covereage has been dire. They just don't seem able to cover sport with any degree of excellence. Why are the BBC losing so many sports?

  • Comment number 23.

    #17 As others have pointed out, Roland has a track record of sending players of for similar tackles, there is nothing at all to suggest that had the tackle been made by a French forward the outcome would have been any different, so I don't see what his heritage has to do with anything.
    Not sure about other refs, but Roland's interpretation is exactly in line with the directive sent out by the IRB.

  • Comment number 24.

    @12 - Explain to me exactly how technology would help when the referee was entitled to show the red according to the laws of the game?

    Was the red harsh? Possibly. Was it right according to the rules? Apparently yes. It's hard to accept in defeat, but the bottom line is this: we would not have any referee controversy if Warburton had not dropped Clerc on his neck.

  • Comment number 25.

    Whilst I have every sympathy for Wales, I also have sympathy for England. Wales had to play after suffering one marginal refereeing decision whereas England had to play every game with half a dozen marginal decisions going against them, each one of which disrupted their momemtum and relieved the opposition of pressure. If those marginal decisions had not gone against England, they might now be in the Final!

  • Comment number 26.

    I am am northampton season ticket holder and England fan but feel sorry for wales and rugby at the moment. Red cards should be the last last resort! There should be no doubt! We don't want our game ending up like football where the refs often end up as the topic of the conversation.

    The best rugby side lost today. Rugby unfortuately is the loser today as Wales have played some great rugby and were clearly the better side. France are the worst team to ever get to a world cup final!

  • Comment number 27.

    Hmmm England lose to a French team not in great form and they turn and look at their own team and why they couldn't beat the French. Wales lose to the same French team and they turn and look at the ref and blame him for not being able to beat the French. Says a lot

  • Comment number 28.

    @ Dr_John_B you are absolutely correct on all accounts bar one. The pundits should do their homework and yes it was very definitely a Red card. The only point I dont agree with on is the fact that I am absolutely delighted that Wales lost. Go France

  • Comment number 29.

    Tom you are wrong in your article. The IRB law is clear and precise and you have not read it. Here it is.
    http://www.deepsouthrugbyunion.com/images/IRB_Memorandum_re_Dangerous_Tackles.pdf

    Clearly as Warburton dropped Clerc from less than 3 foot his tackle falls into category 3 of the spear tackle definitions and should have been punished with a penalty and a possible yellow.

  • Comment number 30.

    The decision has sent out a clear signal to all involved that those tackles are dangerous and will not be tolerated. How many people will be tackled like Clerc and end up breaking their necks? Not just at the elite level, but in junior clubs or at junior level. That type of tackle has no part in the game and Warburton should be ashamed of himself and not treated as some kind of hero.

    It may not have been malicious but it was incredibly dangerous and hat's off to Roland for getting a tough decision right.

    As for the Welsh co-commentator who thought it was a harsh penalty let alone anything else, words fail me

  • Comment number 31.

    Stop the whingeing. Warburton deserved to be sent off because it was clearly a dangerous tackle. Wales deserved to lose because they bottled it when they had chances to take the lead with all those missed kicks at goal.

  • Comment number 32.

    Most of you suggesting the red card is correct need to read the IRB directive.

    The LAW is clear, The IRB DIRECTIVE is clear. It should have been a yellow.

    Read the directive - http://www.deepsouthrugbyunion.com/images/IRB_Memorandum_re_Dangerous_Tackles.pdf

  • Comment number 33.

    Gutted for the young lad in many ways as he's had a great tournament and now he'll get remembered for that for many years (but he'll also get the harsh done by treatment which can compensate for that). Will France pull of the Northern Hemisphere victory that I think everyone wanted just to stick 2 up at the SH....I'm not sure but you never know in 80 minutes rugby.
    The big losers in all this are "the other broadcaster" as all of a sudden they've just lost their massive sporting spectacle and I can't help but think someone, somewhere at the BBC will be gloating...

  • Comment number 34.

    17.At 17:10 15th Oct 2011, RememberScarborough wrote:

    Referees must be and, more importantly, be seen to be neutral.

    Regardless of whether the decision was right, lawful or just, the fact that they chose an Irish referee with a French name who can speak French is inevitably going to lead to accusations of bias, poor decision-making etc. If they had chosen a Southern hemisphere ref there might have been less of a reaction. This was a poor decision by the IRB and it is they who should be held accountable. Will there be a northern hemisphere ref for tomorrow's semi? I think not = similar problem if we're not careful

  • Comment number 35.

    No, he didn't deserve to be sent off. The IRB directive very cleary says the following when defining the punishment to be given to a lifting (spear) tackle. It is this.
    1) if the player is driven into the ground - red card
    2) if the player is dropped from a height - red card
    3) all other lifting tackles are to be punished with a penalty and possible yellow card.

    By the definition of the IRB directive to the rules Warburton's tackle clearly falls into category 3. Clerc was dropped from less than 3 foot. That cannot be contrued as 'a height' as described in category 2. It might be called a height if you're a dwarf but not a rugby player. If anyone thinks it is then please explain what possible lifting tackle would possibly fit into category 3.

    Rolland was wrong and the laws clearly state that. It's irritating that so many of you haven't actually read the IRB directive before supporting Rolland's decision.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    I only got as far as the second paragraph before I had to comment.
    The Severn doesn't flow uphill, but it does flow "backwards" at certain times of the year. Take a look on the internet for the Severn Bore.
    As for the game, as with the SA group stage game that we lost by 1 point, despite the referee making a "debatable" call, we still had chances to win the game and maybe should have. A slip for Hook's penalty, Jones hitting the post with the conversion and Halfpenny's agonisingly close penalty. If one had gone the other way, we might have been in the final.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    The simple truth is that we witnessed one of those occasional sporting paradoxes where the best team didn't win. I now hope that the Welsh public throw some of their superb support behind their League team (which includes that genuine legend Gareth Thomas) in the forthcoming Four Nations.

  • Comment number 40.

    Wonder if Mcaw would have been sent off for the same tackle? The whole thing stinks. I'm livid. The best team lost today. Bad day for Rugby.

  • Comment number 41.

    I've had my issues with mr Rolland in the past but I'm afraid he was bang on all game today. Even as an England fan I was cheering on Wales but they just didn't play well enough. Too much aimless and not followed kicking, too much 1 out runners standing still on receiving the ball and a stupid mistake by the Captain. Probably still would have won with 15. That being said it's criminal that France have lost twice, once to Tonga, and are still in the final.

  • Comment number 42.

    As a french fan I will try to give the feeling from our side. First everybody agrees that Wales deserved to go to the final more than France. With one man down, Wales did most of the play. I think the future looks really promising for such a young team.

    Now the gave the red card as was required from the IRB rules. There is blatant bias in the comments coming from the UK. Of course we did not expect the welsh to concur, but if a french player had spear tackled a red guy, they would all be shouting for straight red ;)

    Finally, as good as that welsh team was, they were responsible for the defeat. They missed all kicks but one. In a WC semi-final this is unforgiving... They could easily have won, even one man down. I guess it's the pressure and lack of experience.

  • Comment number 43.

    "At a subsequent IRB high performance seminar referees were advised that for these types of tackles they were to start at red card as a sanction and work backwards.

    I feel this is the key point of the day. The red card being the worst sanction and working back, now really can any one say that Rollan has done that? He did not even speak to his touch judges! I cant help but feel that he rushed the dessision when he should have taken more time!
    To the letter of the law he is right but then given the directive that all the officials were given has he done the right thing? im not so sure! Its just a shame that arguably the best team in the tournament will not be in the final but I guess that is sport!

    TheLastKingOfEnglan, yet again one of your comments stands out a mile, Englan have to look at them selfs because they have been a joke on and off the field, Wales can look at issues that were outside of their control for their loss! Trying to stir it up maybe?

  • Comment number 44.

    Lievremont is right,his team did have a "guardian angel" his name is Alain Rolland.
    Well done Wales,the way you have played will surely attract youngsters to the game.

  • Comment number 45.

    smackeyes... Stop giving us England fans a bad name. Shut up unless you've something intelligent to say.

  • Comment number 46.

    I couldn't believe he had got a yellow card f or the tackle, then to see it was red, unbelievable, what was Alain Roland thinking. I don't go for all the "he spoilt the game because it was only 20 mins into it, or he should have been easier because it was the semi final" It plain and simple just didn't deserve a red card,no matter what game at what time. Poor Sam, he was the outstanding player of the tourney. and I'm not welsh...................... I'm English.

  • Comment number 47.

    The IRB memorandum of 10 June 2009 gives three cases of sanctions against a player being lfted in the tackle:
    1. Red card if a player is 'forced or speared into the ground'-not the caase here; it 2. Red card if lifted player is 'dropped to the gruond with no regard for the player's safety'. This is debatable but 99.9% of interpretations of what Sam W did would not surely say there was no regard for safety in that tackle-it was a hard but good, tackle.
    3. 'For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles, it may be considered that a yellow card or penalty is sufficient.'

    This latter clause surely applied in the case today. Poor knowledge of the three clauses by Alain Rolland and an over-hasty decision.

    But as they say, look in the paper tomorrow to see if he was right or not. Now Wales need to show the world how good they really are next week.

    With 15 players.

  • Comment number 48.

    Totally agree with John, rugby is the loser thanks to one rash decision. NZ should walk all over what has been a very poor French side, though with the luck France have had in this competition who knows???

  • Comment number 49.

    Yes, Wales played poorly, but the IRB directive is VERY clear and Rolland was clearly wrong. Please actually read the link I posted of the IRB directive / or the definitions of the spear tackle and how Rolland is instructed to punish them that I posted only slighty above this.

    If you do, you will clearly see Rolland was wrong.

  • Comment number 50.

    realist, the actual directive is very very clear about the punishments given and divides the spear tackle into 3 very clear and simple ones. By the law of the directive, Rolland was wrong to issue a red and this article is misinformed.

    Please read the actual law
    http://www.deepsouthrugbyunion.com/images/IRB_Memorandum_re_Dangerous_Tackles.pdf

  • Comment number 51.

    As a neutral, I think the tackle was extremely dangerous and Clerc was lucky not to have been badly injured. Imagine what impact a serious injury, that a fall such as Clerc's could have easily resulted in, would have had on the game as a spectacle.

    In my opinion, Warburton's tackle required a penalty and sin-binning as a minimum and, by the laws of the game, warranted a red card under normal circumstances. I'm convinced Warburton did not intend to hurt the French wing (which automatically makes it slightly more reputable than the infamous spear tackle on Brian O'Driscoll), but that's besides the point. It was dangerous and deserved sanction. Personally, I would have given a sin-binning due to the occasion, but simultaneously recognise that my decision would make a mockery of the rules (a red card should always be a red card regardless of the occasion). Warburton is unfortunate, but the decision was far from outrageous or unexpected, simply bold and consistent.

    It's a real shame that Wales are out now, because they have played rugby that has lit up the World Cup, but the fact is that, despite their heroic performance and playing much better rugby than their opponents on the field, they simply missed too many kicks. Therefore, I can totally understand how this defeat is really difficult to take. France didn't play well, but showed character in holding out for a result under a lot of Welsh pressure and deserve some credit too however. Let's hope they represent the northern hemisphere well in the final (they will need to play a lot better to do so, but showed two years ago that the potential is there).

  • Comment number 52.

    As soon as I saw the tackle I thought right, red card. Then yellow. Then red. Then yellow.

    In the end, having looked at the replays, you have to come to the conclusion that the referee cannot know intent. He is not a mind-reader, and whilst in this instance I genuinely believe no intent was involved, what if he'd let him go for that, and then someone else does it with intent, claims there was none, and then gets away with it?

    Looking at the rules, he wasn't just within his rights to show red, it was written down in the book that he SHOULD give a red.

    Other than that tough call, I thought he was an excellent referee, Wales were the better side, but sometimes these things don't quite work out (That Contepomi offside against Scotland, for instance!) but that's sport. I just so hope that France can win the final, since I made a small bet on it with my friends about 7 weeks ago now. Perhaps they're hoping that, rather than lacklustre final following brilliant semi final, it'll be the other way round this time?

    One thing's for certain, though. Everyone remember all the New Zealanders pooing themselves over France in the pool stages? Think about what they'll be feeling now, facing their greatest World Cup nemesis in the final. I personally think the ABs will crack under the pressure and lose it in the second half (presuming they demolish Australia as I suspect they will!).

  • Comment number 53.

    I find it staggering that people are saying it wasn't a red card, it was a clear spear tackle and Sam needs to take some of the blame for his county's exit from the world cup. Jones should also feel Embarrassed about that missed conversion. The two games where everyone has been saying Wales played their best this tournament, they have lost. Maybe they're not as good as people mhave been making out?

  • Comment number 54.

    Mr. Rolland is a disgrace!!!

  • Comment number 55.

    I’m sorry Wales but rules are rules. It was as a spear tackle, it doesn’t matter if takes place in a Sunday grass roots match of a world cup semi final the rules are the rules. Had it been England in the semi final and the loveable Chris Ashton dumping a player to the ground I’m sure your views would be the same as Alan Roland.

    To say that Alan Roland was refereeing this match with an act of revenge following last weekend’s defeat to the Irish as well as showing loyalty to his father’s home country is just sad and pathetic. Believe me, as an Englishman I can tell you that blaming ref’s gets you know where you just end up with a football team like ours.

    On the game it’s self – France where very poor, as expected they have played their one good game of the tournament. I would put money on them suffering the worst world cup final defeat in history. But surely James Hook must almost feel as bad as Sam himself he was yet again found missing and struggled to control the game – Stephen Jones would have been a much better starting option.

  • Comment number 56.

    , bob17999

    I've listened to enough drivel from Wales fans and English commentators to last me a lifetime. If you don't like my opinion don't read it.

    Wales were beaten twice in this cup, once more than England therefore they are not as good as they believe. If you want a sensible conversation regarding international rugby I will give you my personal email address as these forums are places to vent frustration and anger and to mock other nations

  • Comment number 57.

    Stevendaughton @ 35. The issue with the tackle is not with the height. He tipped the players legs past 90 degrees (in fact near vertical) and allowed the player to drop on his neck with a possibly unitentional elbow to the face on the way down for good measure. The referee had no choice but to issue a red card. By your literal interpretation of the law a player could be turned upside down and dropped on their head as long as its from a low height.

  • Comment number 58.

    Also, who else thinks "that tackle" will become the new "that try" that really wasn't a try in last year's final?

  • Comment number 59.

    to twickenhamloyal

    No disrespect, but "now you know what it is like to be English" - I don't think so!
    Being a proud welshman I am gutted, and very disappointed with the red card! It's not that I believe the decision was wrong, but why didn't Monsieur Roland consult his touchjudges? What that would have done at least is "spread the blame" had the decision been wrong. It would also "buy" him time to make a rational decision.
    Where the Welsh are "disappointed" in the decision, is that there is no parrity in the decisions made with regards to this type of tackle. I have watched the whole tournement live and the South Sea island teams would end up with only a dozen players on the pitch if red cards were wheeled out at every ocassion.
    lastly to this guy from HQ - you can not compare the English Rugby team, to the Welsh Rugby team - DISCIPLINE, ATTITUDE, ABILITY, RESECTFUL,YOUTH LEADERSHIP - the list is endless and then there is the English!
    Have a look at the overall feeling in NZ by the whole rugby world -the Welsh were a delight, the English - there we are then!

  • Comment number 60.

    I can understand peoples' different views on the tackle....it could be judged as dangerous, reckless, malicious (the adjectives could go on and on) etc...

    However I can't understand the comments about how the referee was "following the letter of the law". Not only should the tackle have been deemed a yellow, in keeping with the "letter of the law"; but if referee's followed the law to the enth degree the there would be a penalty at about 95% of all rucks (Richie McCaw/Schalk Burger - both brilliant players but they sure knows how to get away with bending the rules) and I'm sure 100% of scrums (not binding, feeding, back row not bound etc....).

    I think the word consistency has been mentioned about the refereeing decision making throughout the World cup and that is the area I would like to see improvement. However decisions are decisions...and it's human judgement of decisions that actually intrigue us as fans and make the game into a spectacle.

    People can moan about further use of technology all they want.....but would they rather have a person or a video camera refereeing future matches?

  • Comment number 61.

    There has clearly been some debate as to whether Alain Rolland should have officiated the game. Rolland has taken charge of numerous matches involving France and French teams in the Heineken cup. Until now, hardly anyone has raised the issue because he's generally avoided controversy. This was an accident waiting to happen. The fact is, the IRB should ensure that referees taking charge of internationals involving France should have a reasonable command of French rugby speak. I don't mean they have to be fluent, just capable of getting their point across. After all, French refs (Joel Jutge springs to mind) have to learn English. Refs these days are constantly talking to players and often when France have a non-French speaking ref, they are penalised due to a breakdown of communication. At present, apart from French referees there seems to be only Rolland who has any command of the French language.

  • Comment number 62.

    bob17999, that is absolutely my point and the point of the IRB directive. Clearly a drop from a height is far more dangerous than a drop from 1 foot high. That is why the IRB directive so clearly defines the 3 categories of Spear tackle with differing punishments to implement.

    The law is clear, intent is irrelevent. Read the law. His tackle is CLEARLY a category 3 spear tackle and as such is DIRECTED by law to be punished with a penalty and a possible yellow card.

    It is simple, black and white writing. Read it. Rolland was wrong.
    http://www.deepsouthrugbyunion.com/images/IRB_Memorandum_re_Dangerous_Tackles.pdf

  • Comment number 63.

    @34: And yet when I question an English referee taking charge of a Scotland game when they're in the same group I get huge amounts of flack from other posters!

  • Comment number 64.

    Please read the rules-as Stephen Daughton says (his post crossed with mine) It was clearly NOT a 'spear' tackle, there was no downward forcing. It was not done without regard for safety - in that regard it was no different from all the other tackles in the RWC. Sam W DID lift him, but look at and read the third clause in the rules in my post above-there was no disregard for safet, no 'spearing' so the third clause applies and a yellow card or penalty shuld have been given.

  • Comment number 65.

    Absolutely gutted that we lost and the manner of the defeat but having seen the law Rowlands has applied it to the letter. Can't grumble with that. Did we lose the game through being a player down for an hour, it certainly contributed but there were other factors that we were in control of that didn't help our cause. Missed kicks.. so many missed kicks. Lineout... one man down or no it is evened up there but it went to pieces.

    Did I think we played well in difficult circumstances, there were some good performances but key errors at key moments let us down. Hook and Jones didn't play well, shame Priestland wasn't there and that's not something I would have said before the tournament.

    Got to laugh at some of the commentry. Time to get real those of you who think that Rowlands was biased! Also for the few, and it's only some, SH commentators we continually deride NH rugby time also to get a life.

    Bring on the 6 Nations, I can't wait, and for a 3rd place game that with 15 men we can go home with our heads held very high. Cymru am byth!

  • Comment number 66.

    "I dont like Roland generally, but he got this right and ruled many things in Wales favour (the penealty against France on the halfway line when the welsh player was playing the ball on the ground)."

    Agree, that strictly applying the laws of the game, it was a red and that the penalty for Wales shouldn't have happened. However, I'm of the opinion he got both decisions wrong. The three vastly experienced players/pundits (Dallaglio, Piennar and Williams - all back row players note) were obviously stunned that the red card had been shown: Piennar was visibly very angry. Admittedly they appeared ignorant of the law changes that permitted the showing of a red card and so were observing without preconceptions as to the punishment that fitted the crime. I thought immediately YELLOW CARD but in no way thought RED. Several English friends have expressed their shock and disappointment at what happened: unfortunately a poor team has progressed to the final. Australia and NZ must be delighted at the prospect of meeting that French team - the WC is in the bag for the winner!

    Just as players are expected to play within the spirit of the game (I believe Warburton was despite the sending off), so should the officials. Rolland had the back-up of technology and other experienced officials at his disposal but chose to ignore them all. Incompetence!

  • Comment number 67.

    The rule is there in the book, but so are other rules which are regularly "interpreted" by refs. There have been similar tackles made in the world cup that resulted in a penalty and a telling off. My initial thought was "that'll be a yellow" but the red card was just plain stupid.

  • Comment number 68.

    Sorry guys, I am no big fan of Wales (being English) but nobody in their right mind can fail to recognise that Monsieur Rolland has got it catastrophically wrong, yet again! You have to sympathise with a young brave talented player in Sam Warburton having the game taken away from him by a referee over reacting. At most it was a sin bin offence in my opinion. Even then it was staggering how well Wales played, and they really should have won and deserved to. Both Shaun Edwards and Warren Gatland have hit the nail on the head by saying that the destiny of the game was removed by the ref, and that the team that should be in the final will not now be there. As for France, the question is why/how they could not muster more effort to score against Wales....
    I fancy the Aussies to beat NZ tomorrow now and after that I am pretty sure they will despatch the French in the final on this showing.

  • Comment number 69.

    There have been similar 'dangerous' tackles previously in this World Cup, yet no red cards. If red cards had been issued earlier in the World Cup, then no problem with the decision. Sadly, there does not appear to be any consistency.

    Gutted we are talking about the referee's performance as this should have been a classic match.

  • Comment number 70.

    Would Alain Rolland have sent off the All Blacks captain and no.7, Richie McCaw in a semi final? not a chance.. He made a rushed and rash decision.

    The debate is not about the letter of the law, but the interpretation of the law and Alain Rolland must enforce a consistent interpretation of the law, something he failed to do today.

  • Comment number 71.

    Wales were on the wrong end of the toughest of calls by the ref, but of course France 'deserved' to win - they scored more points, tackled like demons and completely destroyed Wales' lineout.

  • Comment number 72.

    If he had only just been raised past 90 degrees I agree that a yellow would have been enough but he lifted him to a position of near vertical before dropping him. This gives the tackled player no oppertunity to break the fall before landing on his neck. The referee has taken the law as written and then applied common sense to it due to the amount of danger Warburton placed the tackled player in. He is both allowed and expected to apply these judgements. Its why a handbags at 10 paces slap doesn't get a straight red but a full right hook does. Both contravene the same law in the same way but rightly don't receive the same punishment.

  • Comment number 73.

    35. At 17:25 15th Oct 2011, StephenDaughton wrote:

    By the definition of the IRB directive to the rules Warburton's tackle clearly falls into category 3. Clerc was dropped from less than 3 foot. That cannot be contrued as 'a height' as described in category 2. It might be called a height if you're a dwarf but not a rugby player. If anyone thinks it is then please explain what possible lifting tackle would possibly fit into category 3.

    It could be argued that the tackle was covered by clause 3, but it is far from clear cut, since it depends on the definition of "a height". Other than at a lineout, it is hard to see how anybody could be dropped from much more than 3 feet in normal play, and that is more than enough to cause a serious neck injury.

    If you lift a player so that his legs are above his shoulders, then it is your responsibility to ensure that the player returns to the ground safely here is an example from the RFU.
    http://www.rfu.com/TheGame/Discipline/Judgements/Judgments2011-12/Chairman/%7E/media/Files/2009/Discipline/2011-2012/Judgments/mccarthyworcesterjudgmentjul11.ashx

    It may have been poor technique rather than malice, but that has no impact on the decision.

  • Comment number 74.

    I agree that the tackle probably merited yellow at most and the decision changed the game but you win some and lose some with the referee. Wales were happy to score the infamous 'wrong ball' try against Ireland in the 6 Nations. What goes around comes around?

  • Comment number 75.

    The fact is this was not a spear tackle. There appear to be lots and lots of myopic English supporters here no doubt bitter at there beloved teams abject performance. As an anglo myself I can at least view the incident honestly. If you look at this dispassionately you can clearly see once Warburton hits the guy he pulls out of the tackle. It is simply the momentum of the hit that drives the frenchman over and on to his back/neck. Warburton falls over him and puts his arm out to stop his own fall. There is no spear tackle and the referee makes a truly hideous decision that has cost Wales a place in the final. Whether he should have refereed this match with a French father is open to question. What isn't open to question is the horrendous nature of this decision. I am disgusted frankly with many of the responses to this report. How can anyone honestly say the referee got this one right. Staggering frankly.

  • Comment number 76.

    What people should be complaining about are the numerous occasions when referees bottle such a decision. The outcome of this sort of tackle can range from the player walking away to a broken neck. It is the possibility of a broken neck that is the reason that the refereeing regulations direct that it should be a red card.
    Given the IRB has given clear direction to referees on this very issue it really leaves Rolland with no choice at all. Blame the IRB if one must but not Rolland, he really had no choice.
    Rolland was doing exactly according to the directive - as he would if it had been a French player or even an Irish for that matter.
    It is a great shame that so many very highly paid supposed experts (such as the berks in ITV) simply don't know the rules and regs of rugby.
    Hopefully the red card will be seen as sufficient punishment and Warburton will get to play in the 3rd/4th playoff.

  • Comment number 77.

    That rule is questionable. Is the player to be gently lowered to the ground, in the midst of battle?
    Questionable too is the RFU's choice of referees, why have an Irishman when one of the competing teams has just knocked out that ref's beloved homeland team?
    It happened in the 2007 final to England with an Aussie TMO as we all know.

  • Comment number 78.

    "Overshadowing every single one of those incidents was the single most controversial decision of the entire tournament so far" lol you must be joking. so because he's not a dirty player does that give him the right to spear tackle?

    "The team that should be playing in the World Cup final next Sunday won't be." again what a joke. to be fair, Wales achieved nothing in this world cup. they beat the usual suspects and lost to the big dogs as always so nothing has changed.

  • Comment number 79.

    I'm not bitter about Warburton being sent off by an Irish referee with French parents...oh wait...

  • Comment number 80.

    Not only did the referee spoil a semi-final, he has ruined the final. France will be hammered. Why not ask for a video review? At least we would have had two people's view of it. Then the referee could have set his stall out with a yellow, if needed.

  • Comment number 81.

    @StephenDaughton unless we have not seem the same images, Warburton DOES drop Clerc from a height after lifting him up, with his head/neck first down the ground. So according to the rules you cited, it WAS a red card.

  • Comment number 82.

    At the end of the day he did tackle and lift the legs upwards, it was dangerous, and it as cost him and Wales.
    Many matches are won and lost by refereeing decisions.
    I do feel sorry for him and the team, but I thought he and the players spoke very well after the game.
    I would just like to make one more point, the sending off could have worked against France.
    If as we are told every sin bin costs a team on average 7 points.
    If that is true France might have thought 60 minutes to go that’s possibly 42 points, anyway very hard for Wales.
    I personally think states never tell the full story because if you are playing an inferior side, and they go down to 14 you will score an hat full.
    But I’m sure it changed the way France approached the game, and it certainly did Wales.

  • Comment number 83.

    77. At 17:58 15th Oct 2011, megee333 wrote:
    ...Questionable too is the RFU's choice of referees, why have an Irishman when one of the competing teams has just knocked out that ref's beloved homeland team?...

    I thought that also. His name and ability at French seemed a bit suspicious too!

  • Comment number 84.

    No16 - Dr-John-B - "Glad to see the Welsh fans showing their usual grace in defeat, following on from the pre-game arrogance" - care to back that up with someone Welsh actually being ungracious in defeat. The quote you've used is from a Scotsman.

    To clear it up, Wales lost. All the players have accepted this in good grace and will give it their all in the remaining game, meaningless as it is. This is the kind of humility you'd do well to learn from.

    From a refereeing perspective, what would be nice is for there to be a little parity regarding how the rules penalising tip/spear tackles are actually implemented. There were many worse tackles in the tournament that were only punished by means of a penalty - although today's judgement can be construed as correct (although strictly, to the word, it was not - see 35), it is difficult to stomach given all that transpired in previous games.

    ian_creamer - you clearly have never played rugby if you feel that was a spear tackle.

    Smackeys - I'll join you in that pint of ale. But what shall we toast? I know, in spite of how much it must be killing you, Wales are higher ranked than your countrymen. Therefore, although neither team achieved anything in this RWC - we were not quite as cr*p as you - I'll take that for now.

    Incidentally, France did not do well in defence, they leaked 5 points when playing 60 minutes a player up. Mediocre at best.

    However, the team that performed best over 60 minutes won and that is what will be shown in any review of the RWC so congratulations France. Commiserations Wales - with the smallest player pool of the top 7 teams in the world, you acquitted yourselves well and did your country proud. Any comments to the contrary are at best uneducated, and at worst, bitter and sad.

  • Comment number 85.

    Can't believe the number of armchair Rugby Players on here who seem to know more than some of the pundits who have played the game at the highest level. So far I haven't heard one of them claim that the tackle warranted a Red Card. The general consensus as I see it is that Warburton did not drive/spear Clerc into the ground and did not drop him from height. Therefore Rolland was wrong and a Yellow Card and a Penalty would have been sufficient.

    Nevertheless, it is no time for sour grapes and I would just like to say how proud I am of the Welsh boys, that was a valiant effort to say the least, and there were times in the second half when I wondered which side was down to 14 men.

    So near and yet so far. Good Luck to france in the Final (if they haven't already used up their share of luck already !)

    Hold your heads high boys - you did Wales proud.

  • Comment number 86.

    indeed robtheguru, you speaketh the truth and thoughth of many

  • Comment number 87.

    Don't be bitter Welsh fans! Hold your heads high knowing you have a fantastic side that play the game the right way and it just wasn't their time.

    Blaming the referee is a nonsense. He's such a nice boy, he didn't mean it, other refs let them go, ALL IRRELEVANT. It was a shocking tackle, evidenced by the way clerc hit the floor. He could have broken his neck! These are elite rugby players who know the rules and have no excuses. I didn't like Warburton trying to defend himself one bit, he was reckless and endangered the safety of another player. Spear tackles (speared or dropped) are inexcusable and horrible and rightly deserve the worst punishment. What would we be saying if Clerc had gone to hospital and lost the use of his legs?

    And, perhaps more poignantly, what would we be saying if a french player had been sent off for one and wales had won the game? Not alot is the answer. We certainly wouldn't be quoting rule provisions and calling up referees for their 'analysis'.

    Enough. It hurts but on this one you're wrong. Terrible luck, just be proud of your players and be grateful you're not english i suppose :p

  • Comment number 88.

    Again, @77 - when I complained about Wayne Barnes directing Scotland-Argentina because England were in the same group, I got a lot of flak, perhaps now you understand my gripes?

    That and the fact that A: I believe it was a red card & B: Look up "England no try" on Google Images and look at the first picture, then come back to me saying "it was a try." The Australian TMO was correct on a very difficult decision.

    Also, it doesn't show well on English fans as a whole that you still complain about that 4 years later but when I was talking to my friend (who is a MASSIVE Wales fan) earlier today he said simply "Let's move on and not be like the England fans." Says a lot that you just proved his point.

    That and it doubly annoys me because there is actual PROOF that it wasn't a try, but whatever, make your own opinion...

  • Comment number 89.

    Although I think the ref was within his rights to send him off, I think it was harsh. For the law needs to take into account if malice is involved or not. The other tackles which have been mention, they were not red cards, if they were red card we been having one every other match, two of those tackles (that I can think of anyway) were in the same game, and they got the low end bans anyway, if they were low end that means they were yellow surely?

    Personal I feel the length of ban will gives a real idea, of whether it was a red card or not

  • Comment number 90.

    Well, I guess Wales must say: 'every piece of s**t which could happen today, did. But world champions accept that and come through. For some reason today, we couldn't do that. We had the chances to win, 14 men or not. We are a young team, so we either wallow in self-pity or determine that, next time, we will win it. Which starts with a Grand Slam in 2012.'

    I am surprised at the very different attitudes of the BBC to the internationals hired by ITV and Sky. BBC is adamant that the red card is correct, Pienaar, Dallaglio, Stuart Barnes and others convinced it was wrong. Says that consistency of interpretation of the rules is an issue............

    One thing's sure. This result will shape this welsh team in the way they let it shape them.

    Neutrals hope that they use it to produce even more glorious rugby.

    They lit up this world cup and those who see rugby as more than just an attritional battle hope that they continue to do so for several years to come.

  • Comment number 91.

    His legs being lifted to whatever angle is irrelevant. The law clearly defines this kind of tackle and puts it into 3 categories. Will people actually read the IRB directive before commenting on it.

    Here it is.
    http://www.deepsouthrugbyunion.com/images/IRB_Memorandum_re_Dangerous_Tackles.pdf

    Rolland was instructed to award a yellow for a category 3 lifting tackle. It is very clear.

  • Comment number 92.

    Irrelevant of red card - look at the stats, Wales had more possession, more territory and yet still failed to deliver points when it counted. Exactly the same against South Africa too, almost identical stats.

    Missing 4 kicks at goal and 1 2 drop goals is not going to cut it at this level. Wales were rudderless at 10 in the first half and Stephen Jones who is normally excellent at controlling games just didn't have enough games under his belt.

    No excuses just failed to deliver.

    Great building blocks though although one fears that success will go somewhat to the players heads as it did after the recent grand slam wins. The team must stay in control and build on the young talent.

    Much better than previous world cups though and lets look forward to next years 6 nations, it should be a cracker with all teams out to avenge.

    Disappointed but objective Welsh fan and lets all get behind the French for next week, we should support the Northern Hemisphere side in the final.

  • Comment number 93.

    #70 McJennett states "The debate is not about the letter of the law, but the interpretation of the law and Alain Rolland must enforce a consistent interpretation of the law, something he failed to do today."
    Alain Rolland enforced the very interpretation that the IRB had specifically issued to referees on this sort of tackle.
    Do we have to wait for a broken neck or should be applauding the attempts of the IRB to get this type of tackle out of the game ?
    Warburton was unlucky but not harshly treated and its only by strict application of the regulations that someone will be walking around in the future that would otherwise have broken their neck.

  • Comment number 94.

    "50.At 17:36 15th Oct 2011, StephenDaughton wrote:
    realist, the actual directive is very very clear about the punishments given and divides the spear tackle into 3 very clear and simple ones. By the law of the directive, Rolland was wrong to issue a red and this article is misinformed.

    Please read the actual law
    http://www.deepsouthrugbyunion.com/images/IRB_Memorandum_re_Dangerous_Tackles.pdf"

    Whilst I agree with you that a yellow card was appropriate, the law is not as clear as you as you argue. The directive is poorly worded: a stronger definition of what constitutes 'from a height' is required. Whilst it appears that Rolland has a stricter interpretation of 'from a height' that other refs, the law is too opaque to hold him solely responsible for his poor decision.

  • Comment number 95.

    @BucksWelsh "unfortunately a poor team has progressed to the final. Australia and NZ must be delighted at the prospect of meeting that French team - the WC is in the bag for the winner!"

    Well please convey that feeling to whichever team wins tomorrow - preferably New-Zealand. France love to play them when they stroll on the pitch full of themselves, sure to dispatch without effort such a poor french team, thinking they have already won the game ;)

  • Comment number 96.

    Well, whatever happens, we know one thing for sure: France will lose by at least 30 in the final.

  • Comment number 97.

    Post 77 on choice of ref, well England always have that problem knowing nobody likes them and will openly say so. (New Zealand Official comes to mind)
    Post 78 spot on, good reputation doesn’t mean you cant give away penalty’s.

  • Comment number 98.

    81. At 17:59 15th Oct 2011, Commodus wrote:
    @StephenDaughton unless we have not seem the same images, Warburton DOES drop Clerc from a height after lifting him up, with his head/neck first down the ground. So according to the rules you cited, it WAS a red card.

    No, he came down on his shoulder. Also, if Clerc had not been so keen to hold on to the ball, he could have used both hands to soften his landing. A tackle is made to win the ball after all.

  • Comment number 99.

    #83 TigerSimon "I thought that also. His name and ability at French seemed a bit suspicious too!"
    Alain Rolland is Irish by nationality and was brought up in Ireland but has one Irish and one French parent. He is a fluent French speaker (rare among top refs - well ones that aren't French) and has refereed many France internationals precisely because it can communicate so well.
    I'm sure most contributors to this blog (including TigerSimon of course) would accept that no top referees are biased due to their nationality.

  • Comment number 100.

    Marc Lievremont could well be right that guardian angels have delivered France to the Rugby World Cup final. However if he thinks they are looking after French interests he is mistaken. They are looking after the interests of the New Zealand/Australia and have ensured that the final now includes a team of muppets who would not look less convincing if they had Kermit the Frog at the helm.

    That said, given the position they were in, I would have expected this Welsh side to overcome that one point deficit when in the opponents half. Missed opportunity and only ourselves to blame. Alain Rolland is a good referee. Unfortunately I doubt he will enjoy his next few visits to the Millenium Stadium, which is a shame.

 

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