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Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis was freed to continue playing in the Rugby Championship after having a red card rescinded.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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions