Gregor Townsend thinks standard of officiating at World Cup needs to improve
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend insisted the standard of officiating at the World Cup needs to improve after being left perplexed by the decision not to issue a red card to Tonga’s Afusipa Taumoepeau for a high tackle that forced his captain Jamie Ritchie off and ruled him out of the next match against Romania.
The Scots scored seven tries as they defeated the Pacific islanders 45-17 in Nice on Sunday to get the bonus-point win they needed to kick-start their tournament and keep alive their hopes of progressing to the knockout phase.
However, Townsend was astonished that Taumoepeau did not have his yellow card upgraded to a red for the 33rd-minute flashpoint that left his skipper with a head injury and unable to take part in full contact training until the eve of what is shaping up to be a critical showdown with Ireland in Paris a week on Saturday.
The head coach’s anger was heightened by the fact there was a similar scenario in Scotland’s first game when South Africa’s Jesse Kriel dodged a red card despite appearing to make head-on-head contact with Jack Dempsey.
“It’s very disappointing that our captain, one of our key players, was hit in the head and had to be removed from the game,” said Townsend. “It’s twice now that’s happened. Against South Africa, Jack was hit in the head. Nothing happened that day, and today it was only a yellow card.
“I just don’t understand what the TMO bunker and the three officials who are there to say if it’s a red card are looking at. They are trying to look at ways to not give red cards rather than referee what isn’t a legal tackle and should be a red card, in my opinion.
“This is our showcase, our opportunity to show what is legal and what is illegal, what we want out of the game. That’s two tackles now, both upright, both hit the head of our players, one had no sanction, not even a penalty, and the second one just had a yellow card. I don’t think that’s good enough.”
Townsend was pleased with the way his team handled the pressure of needing a bonus-point win to keep themselves in with a sniff of qualifying for the quarter-finals from a formidable pool B. The Scots’ seven tries were all scored by different players and four of them came in the first half, reducing any sense of anxiety associated with chasing the bonus.
“It was a bonus – literally – that we got those four tries in the first half,” he said. “It was probably a bit ahead of what we expected. Credit to the players for doing that.
“Tonga are a very good side with very good individuals. They are very physical. We talked about the fact that the work we did in the first 20 minutes might not necessarily lead to points on the board but we believed we could take away their fitness.”
Ireland’s win over South Africa on Saturday made Scotland’s qualification bid slightly harder than it already was as Townsend’s men will now have to beat the Irish in Paris in the last game and ensure their opponents do not get a losing bonus point.
“Reading a few comments after the game, it looked like Ireland were already in the quarter-finals,” smiled Townsend, mildly miffed by such talk. “Even chatting to a few people today, they were saying it will be Ireland against New Zealand. Maybe that’s already been decided.
“We know we have to win our next two games, and it’s likely now we’ll have to win with either a bonus point or deny Ireland a bonus point. But we’ve got a game next week (against Romania) to focus on and we’ve got to get maximum points from that one first.”