France see Red - World Rugby call it a 'Yellow Card'
Benjamin Fall of France receives a red card from Referee Angus Gardner during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and France at Westpac Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

After the New Zealand v France rugby test match on Saturday night, France saw ‘Red’ when fullback Benjamin Fall was penalized, after an mid-air collision with Beauden Barrett. He was sent from the field, yet World Rugby now call it a ‘Yellow Card’ after judicial committee review.

The media release from World Rugby has thrown petrol on the flames, after French rugby head coach Jacques Brunel had already spoken out, post-game. Now the option of a yellow card will dominate the reaction, as the focus falls on the referee Angus Gardner, and the impact on both players – Fall now free to play in the third test, while Barrett will be ruled out, due to a concussion stand-down period.

France see Red – World Rugby call it a ‘Yellow Card’

The video has been shown in multiple angles, at real-time and slow-motion, to the ‘enth degree. Now, the judicial committee ruling is in contrast with the World Rugby appointed official. Not that the media release has laid any blame at his ruling.

“Therefore, having regard to the totality of the evidence, the Judicial Committee was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the referee’s decision to issue the red card was wrong. In reaching that conclusion, it is important to record, that no criticism is made of the referee nor, in our opinion, would any be warranted.”

The statement is impartial, however the two test matches have both been affected by referee judgements on-field; including the interaction of the TMO (television match official). It begs the question whether the stakeholders – fans, sponsors and the players – can feel that instant rulings are fair. It may also create a conversation on what penalties should be used (red or yellow card), and discussion over what post-game action might be taken?

There will also be interest in how interpretation can change from the on-field evidence, to the committee viewpoint [with the aid of review]? Will referees still have the final say in contentious rulings, or might a league-style ‘on report’ system be trialled?

Aside from all the controversy, a World Rugby appointed judicial committee has cancelled the red card sanction issued to French fullback Benjamin Fall during his team’s 26–13 loss to New Zealand in Wellington, on Saturday night.

In reality though, it might not satisfy France, who saw red on match day.

Read the full media release; on behalf of World Rugby, released by New Zealand Rugby.

 

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