Biggest controversies at World Cup

Date published: July 12 2015

The World Cup is not just memorable for producing heroes and winners, it also throws up major talking points too. Here are some of the biggest.

From questionable calls and unfair fixture scheduling for the minnow nations to Manu Tuilagi jumping off a ferry and the French players revolting against their coach, the tournament is not without drama and this year is sure not to disappoint.

Here are the biggest controversies ever to occur at the Rugby World Cup…

7. The 16th Player – Samoa v England (RWC 2003 Pool C)
England were fined £10,000 but escaped a possible five-point deduction for fielding 16 players in their 35-22 win over Samoa. Ignoring the official's instructions, England sent on Dan Luger while Mike Tindall was still on the field receiving treatment in the last minute of the match. Fitness coach Dave Reddin, then in charge of England's substitutes bench, was given a two-match ban for his part in the incident.

6. War' it a Red Card? – Wales v France (RWC 2011 Semi-final)
Wales captain Sam Warburton was harshly sent off by match referee Alain Rolland for lifting Vincent Clerc off his feet, turning him in the air and leaving him to crash on his back. The tackle looked more misjudged than malicious and merited no more than a yellow card with 19 minutes gone. The brave 14 Welshmen came up just short in an agonising 9-8 defeat.

5. Try Time, Ain't it? – England v Australia (RWC 1991 Final) and South Africa (RWC 2007 Final)
Hapless England can argue they have come out on the wrong end of big calls in two finals. The first was in 1991 against Australia when Peter Winterbottom's pass to Rory Underwood was deliberately knocked down by David Campese thus preventing a try. No penalty try was awarded and they lost 12-6. The second came in 2007 versus South Africa when Mark Cueto was adjudged to have put his foot in touch prior to touching down. No try was given and the Springboks won 15-6.

4. O Dear O'Brien – Fiji v France (RWC 1999 Pool C)
Match referee Paddy O'Brien wrongly disallowed a Seta Tawake try for Fiji then awarded France a dubious penalty try, despite Marc dal Maso popping out of the scrum, in a 28-19 win. O'Brien, who also missed Christian Califano's headbutt on Joeli Veitayaki and Christophe Lamaison's forward pass in a quickly-taken penalty that was brought back for three points, later apologised for his poor performance.

3. Did Benazzi cross the whitewash? – France v South Africa (RWC 1995 Semi-final)
Had the game, which was delayed an hour due to heavy rain and violent storms, not gone ahead the hosts would have exited the tournament due to their inferior disciplinary record. As it turned out, South Africa were fortunate in more ways than one to reach the final after Abdel Benazzi slid over from a forward drive following an 'up and under' kick. However, match referee Derek Bevan ruled against a try and the Springboks held on to win 19-15.

2. Where is La Justice? – France v New Zealand (RWC 2011 Final)
New Zealand suffered an injustice in 2007 when referee Wayne Barnes failed to spot a forward pass in the build-up to France's second try in their 20-18 upset. But in the 2011 final, the All Blacks got a huge helping hand off match official Craig Joubert. The South African referee failed to penalise a number of Kiwi infringements at the scrum and breakdown, which may have swayed the hosts' narrow 8-7 victory into another French shock.

1. Were the Kiwis Poisoned? – New Zealand v South Africa (RWC 1995 Final)
Most of the New Zealand team were suffering from food poisoning on the eve of the final. Then Kiwi head coach Laurie Mains alleged that their food and drink was deliberately spiked to disrupt their preparations against hosts South Africa. Of the 35 man squad, 27 who dined at the team hotel fell ill while the rest that ate elsewhere were unaffected. During the match, several All Blacks including Jeff Wilson were seen throwing up on the sidelines. Although there is no proof or evidence of intentional poisoning by a waitress known as 'Susie', this conspiracy theory still remains unsolved.

By Aron Hegarty