The All Blacks need some self-reflection before they lament ‘consistency’ from World Cup Final referees


Oh, the irony of it all. When All Blacks assistant coach Jason Ryan reflected on his perceived sense of officiating flaws, mainstream media gifted him prime-time viewing.

Where were these entitled nations when the likes of Fiji, Manu Samoa, and Los Pumas, to name a few, had bemoaned not receiving the rub of the green during the tournament in France?

The bragging rights of a record 4th title belongs to the Springboks, after a nail-biting 12-11 win in Saint-Denis on Sunday morning (Southern Hemisphere time). The one-try fest had become a gargantuan task for the ABs who had played almost 60 minutes with 14 men.

The Boks, also picking up two yellow cards against the ABs’ one upgraded to red for skipper Sam Cane, minutes out of halftime, had reduced the final to a 14-men affair for 20 minutes. Them’s the breaks, right?

Nope, according to Ryan who is, no doubt, echoing the sentiments of the ABs camp which would have woken up to a throbbing pain that will dog it for some time. Rewind to ex-ABs reliving the 1995 RWC title loss to South Africa.

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“The cards and the accuracy cost us in the end, and it’s a tough one,” lamented Ryan, choking as his tear ducts broke their bank. “You just want consistency in the game, don’t you? That’s all you want.”

New Zealand’s Sam Cane heads to the sin bin after being shown a yellow during the Rugby World Cup 2023 final match at the Stade de France in Paris, France. (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

Bingo, Ryan, but where were you when the “lesser nations” were agonising over refereeing/TMO howlers that had cost them historic playoffs? The all-English, 4-point control didn’t foster impartiality but making Wayne Barnes a scapegoat is so unfair and yesteryear.

The ABs’ pain isn’t any more intense than that of the “minnows”. Hey, that I can’t recall the All Blacks ever crying openly in public after a match doesn’t raise the stakes. If anything, that sort of carry on is reserved for the changing sheds in a code where players and fans are urged to “suck it up” and “move on”.

In fairness to Ryan, he had clarified: “…It’s tough for them [but] we move on, don’t we? That’s sport.” Every other nation had to, albeit some with less tact, resorting to scuffles rather than hugs and handshakes.

For those entitled fans who had rejoiced in the All Blacks’ controversial 8-7 win over France at home in the 2011 RWC, they now know how Les Bleus and their faithful would have tried to exorcise their demons. But this isn’t about payback time – just ask the unwanted Dane Coles.

The outgoing veteran bench hooker had to become the billboard of ill discipline in missing out in the 2023 final but, I’m guessing, he isn’t going to feel the warmth of his silver medal, never mind if it had been gold. He may revisit the subject in his memoir.

South Africa’s Siya Kolisi celebrates at full-time after winning Rugby’s world cup. (Photo by Franco Arland/Getty Images)

Let’s look at Ryan’s bone of contention. If the TMO saw red in Sam Cane, why not his Boks counterpart, Siya Kolisi, after his head collision with Ardie Savea in the 45th?

That’s because Cane had no mitigating factors, his shoulder driving straight into Jesse Kriel’s noggin. That’s not a collision. That falls within the ambit of recklessness. To steal Cane’s emotions, he will have to live that down.

To be frank, Shannon Frizel’s coat hanger on Mbongeni Monambi in just the 3rd minute could easily have been a red, too. The flanker was deemed to have crushed the Boks’ only specialist hooker’s leg, ending his final. Cynical or coincidence? The Boks’ lineouts had fallen apart like a house of cards after that. Scrums so-so.

The pragmatics will argue the ABs should have kicked better between the posts and with touch finders. Small change can make an accumulative difference at the stock exchange.

To stick with Will Jordan, when it had become obvious he was out of his depth as a rookie winger was questionable. As a specialist fullback he could have replaced Beauden Barret but that ship has sailed.

All said and done, World Rugby will do well to keep its ear on the ground to bridge the gap of disparity between nations.

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