Gloucester's Nick Wood faces long ban as referees feel the strain

 

Nick Wood, the Gloucester prop sent off at Saracens for using the flanker Jacques Burger as a human doormat, will face a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel in Bristol on Tuesday to answer for his crime. It should not take him long – he has already apologised to all and sundry, both for stamping on Burger’s head and for leaving his team a man short for 79 minutes of an 80-minute game – but his suspension could drag on for quite a while. He will be very lucky indeed if he plays again before the end of November.

Just for once, no one in the coaching community felt aggrieved at the weekend’s big refereeing call: Nigel Davies, the Gloucester rugby director, acknowledged immediately that the Test official Wayne Barnes had little or no option but to send Wood packing. Yet elsewhere, referees are feeling like flak-magnets. Even the International Rugby Board, generally protective of the men charged with making instant decisions under  extreme pressure, has felt driven to join the chorus of condemnation.

Yesterday, the Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis was freed to continue playing in the Rugby Championship after having a red card rescinded. Quite rightly too: his tackle on the All Black outside-half Daniel Carter in Auckland on Saturday was certainly destructive and may have had a whiff of offside about it, but it was not, in and of itself, illegal. The fact that the referee responsible for misreading it, Romain Poite of France, subsequently dismissed Du Plessis for a second cardable offence was a classic example of Sod’s Law in action.

Sadly, the IRB’s formal statement declaring that Poite had been guilty of an “unfortunate case of human error” may turn out to be counter-productive. Poite, rated by many excellent judges as the world’s best referee, was not granted an opportunity to admit to his own failings after the game – officials are barred from commenting ahead of disciplinary hearings – and cannot have appreciated the governing bodies “help” in the matter, especially as it was accompanied by a veiled threat of demotion from Test duty.

With the Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill currently serving a nine-week “touchline ban” imposed after a force-10 rant during last season’s Premiership final and Dean Ryan, his counterpart at Worcester, criticising aspects of refereeing performance after both of his team’s league games to date, officials are feeling extremely exposed. To make matters worse, their sense of vulnerability is being sharpened by growing crowd discontent whenever a referral is made to television match officials, whose role has been expanded this season.

It is a sign of the times. Earlier this month, the Rugby Football Union chose to part company with Ed Morrison, who had been in charge of Twickenham’s elite refereeing department for five years. One of the finest officials in the sport’s history, he had made it his business to build the best possible relationships with top-flight coaches who would phone him every Monday to complain bitterly about perceived injustices. At the same time, he offered unstinting support to the referees, especially after the loss of a number of experienced international-class officials – Tony Spreadbury, Chris White, Dave Pearson – left the English game with scant resources.

Scrum trouble: Weekend incidents

Nick Wood: Gloucester prop was sent off after just 73 seconds against Saracens.

Bismarck du Plessis: South Africa hooker’s red card against New Zealand was rescinded.

Logovi’i Mulipola and Tom Youngs: Leicester’s prop and hooker were sin-binned in their defeat to Bath.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen