IRB referees boss Paddy O’Brien has explained why South African referee Cobus Wessels has been dropped from the All Blacks versus Australia Tri-Nations rematch this weekend.
Rugby 365 reports that O’Brien said it was because of a blunder which cost Australia dearly.
Wessels has paid the price for his recommendation that Australian wing Drew Mitchell be sin-binned for a “late and dangerous tackle” in the Tri-Nations Test won by the All Blacks 49-28 in Melbourne last Saturday.
The initial announcement by the International Rugby Board (IRB) that Wessels had been stood down as an assistant referee for this Saturday’s Test in Christchurch said it followed a review of his performance but gave no reason.
However, O’Brien told the New Zealand Press Association it related to Wessels’s ruling on Mitchell’s tackle on All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
The incident was at the minor end of the scale and “if anything, it’s lucky to be a penalty”, O’Brien said.
“McCaw off-loads as he’s about to collide with Drew Mitchell, who puts his hands out and pushes him away. So there’s no way it’s a yellow card offence.”
Mitchell was later shown a second yellow card for slowing down play after half-time, resulting in an automatic sending off for the rest of the game.
“As a result of that, with the second yellow, Australia went without a player for 30 minutes and that just shouldn’t have happened,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien pointed out that Wessels also called an All Blacks’ line-out throw not straight late in the Test when it was clearly down the middle.
Said O’Brien: “Assistant referees, we encourage them to intervene in the game but they’ve got to get it right. There were two decisions made which we felt weren’t up to the standard required.
“Cobus has been very understanding, he admits that he got it wrong and we’re not going to hang him out to dry. He’s got to go away and think about that, referee the Currie Cup and hopefully learn a lesson from it.”
Meanwhile, O’Brien defended the refereeing trend this season that has seen a proliferation of yellow and red cards, and said rather than accuse referees of being over-zealous the spotlight should fall on the players.
“We make no apologies for it. We’re very tough on dangerous tackles, especially tip-tackles,” he said. “And there’s no excuses for the head-butting and the other things that have happened.”
However, there were concerns about some yellow-card decisions and “we just want the referees to be accurate when it comes to what is foul play and what is hard rugby”.Tweet