Referees blamed for excessive kicking

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reports from Pretoria

A feature of the World Cup has been a tendency for teams to indulge in aerial ping-pong whereby stand-offs and full-backs, or indeed anybody else for that matter, punt the ball as hard as they possibly can. At altitude the result is that usually the ball goes dead and a drop-out ensues.

They are supposed to be playing for a cup named after a Rugby schoolboy, William Webb Ellis, who picked up the ball and ran. There is unease here at the discrepancy between referees in the interpretation of the laws, and it is given as one reason for excessive kicking out of hand and for the excessive number of penalties awarded.

Derek Bevan of Wales, who refereed the 1991 World Cup final and the opening match between South Africa and Australia last month, is considered to be one of the best in the world, but New Zealand were unhappy with his performance in their 48-30 victory over Scotland on Sunday.

The All Blacks, who have introduced a number of talented three-quarters into this tournament, are deliberately attempting to play a more dynamic, exciting game, one which is very different from the New Zealand stereotype of masterful forwards and a tight game plan.

Laurie Mains and Earle Kirton, the All Blacks coaches, were both critical of Bevan after the Scotland match. "It is as if they have become too important," Kirton said. "There is no general philosophy about the game and they concentrate far too much on technicalities. They're obsessed, for example, with the offside law. Scotland were also unhappy in that they weren't allowed to play a rucking game."

Nor was he impressed with the handling of the South Africa-Western Samoa game by the Scottish referee, Jim Fleming. Bevan, who sometimes gives the impression of having eyes in the back of his head, was bound to upset the All Blacks because he did not allow them to get away with any off- the-ball offences. Mains said he did not understand a lot of his decisions.

Kirton stood out as an adventurous stand-off and he also had a spell with Harlequins in London. "If we played rugby in New Zealand like England are playing here we'd be in trouble," he said. "We have to play an entertaining game otherwise the spectators would turn to rugby league.

"You can play a 10-man game at Twickenham because a lot of people are there for the occasion rather than the rugby. It's a social day where you take the hamper into the car park and meet friends. It's possible to win the cup with a big pack, kill the ball on the ground and have a specialist goal-kicker. We could do that but it's not rugby."

Meanwhile, Scotland, who were preparing to fly home, will have to rebuild for next season. Apart from losing their captain, Gavin Hastings, who has retired from international rugby, they will also have to look for a new coach and a new manager because Dougie Morgan and Duncan Paterson are also retiring. The SRU said yesterday that the coach who would replace Morgan would not necessarily come from Scotland.

Kenny Milne, the hooker, and Iain Morrison, the flanker, also played their last games for Scotland in the quarter-final against the All Blacks.