Loose Pass

Date published: September 23 2015

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with a necessary evil, whether size matters, a Wallabies fan and salary cap shenanigans.

A necessary evil

Criticism of the role played by the Television Match Official in the modern game is nothing new but there was increased concern over the weekend as it threatened to tarnish an otherwise superb opening weekend of Rugby World Cup action.

Countless minutes ticked by during the tournament opener as referee Jaco Peyper repeatedly went to the TMO to double check decisions and it wasn't the only game blighted by such agonising delays.

But in other games marginal calls that appeared to be crying out for clarification escaped the same level of scrutiny. The lack of consistency is frustrating from the press seats so you can only imagine the rage in the coaches' box and on the field itself.

What is of paramount importance is that the correct decision is made – especially in high profile games like World Cup clashes.

Leading referees such as Nigel Owens and Glen Jackson have also both recently gone on record admitting mistakes are unavoidable in general play so any technology that can aid them is surely a positive.

But it is also critical that we reach that moment as quick as possible as the delays rob the game – and the tournament – of priceless momentum, sap energy out of the contest and have many reaching for the TV remote.

Wrong decisions in such matches that double as priceless adverts for the game could harm the sport's reputation and make it look foolish.

But at the same time endless interruptions, delays and indecision from individuals supposedly in charge of the game are equally damaging.

The real issue appears to be the review process and the time taken to flag a concern and reach a decision.

Peyper's belated decision to query an apparent try from Fiji's scrum-half Nikola Matawalu after he had awarded it, and as the conversion was about to be taken, was the most frustrating moment of the lot. He was not alone thought with fellow whistleblower Craig Joubert similarly troubled.

Wayne Barnes did his hopes of hosting some big games down the line with the most assured refereeing performance of the weekend when he took charge of New Zealand versus Argentina – but he will no doubt have learnt from the problems faced by others.

Perhaps the only answer is to refer every try to the TMO and put it under the microscope but have more eyes on the replays with each official having a specific scope be that grounding, scoring pass, foul play or whatever.

The speed at which that information is relayed would be the key leaving the referee to make the ultimate decision on any infringement. Clear communication throughout the game should help avoid any confusion.

But even that does not sit easy.

Imagine asking Japan and a capacity Brighton Community Stadium to keep a cork in their elation following the Brave Blossoms' last-gasp score against South Africa until the epic score could be confirmed.

Size doesn't always matter

A world record Rugby World Cup crowd packed into Wembley Stadium for the All Blacks' thrilling victory over Argentina on Sunday with 89,019 fans enthralled from a spine-tingling haka to the final whistle.

Similarly, a capacity crowd of 82,000 packed into Twickenham for England's victory over Fiji in the tournament opener and was crackling long before a ball was kicked thanks to a goose bump-inducing opening ceremony that included an incredible ovation for home favourite Martin Johnson.

But bigger is not always better. The atmosphere produced at the 16,500 capacity Kingsholm for Georgia's impressive victory over Tonga was just as intoxicating and the 30,000 that flocked to Brighton's Community Stadium on successive days also produced memories as special as the rugby on-show.

The need to recoup the massive Rugby World Cup hosting fee may demand the capacity offered by the largest stadiums but tournament organisers must be praised for their use of traditional club rugby grounds like Kingsholm and Sandy Park that can be just as profitable in terms of generating valuable and enduring memories.

Boo boys need to behave

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw smiled as he recalled being booed by tens of thousands of Argentina fans as he sat in the sin-bin at Wembley Stadium but it could not have been a pleasant experience.

McCaw certainly deserved his yellow card for what he himself labelled 'a dumb' trip on Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe but the repeated rage and rancour of the Pumas' fans? No.

But credit to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen for his take on the issue. "We take it for what it is: a mark of respect against a great player. If you're no good, nobody cares. You don't get booed unless you're any good."

Day leads the way

If Australia were looking for inspiration ahead their World Cup opener against Fiji this week then they got some at the weekend courtesy of Aussie golfer Jason Day.

Victory at the BMW Championship on the PGA Tour propelled the 27-year-old to the top of the world rankings and in doing so he threw the gauntlet down to the Wallabies.

Just a few days earlier he took receipt of a signed Wallabies shirt from Kurtley Beale and expressed his belief that the team “have what it takes to win the World Cup”.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is also a fan of Day and a particular admirer of his consistency and has urged his side to learn from their golfing counterpart in their own quest to reach the top of the world.

Salary cap shenanigans?

One person celebrating Japan's shock victory over the Boks louder than most was perhaps Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty.

English club rugby continues to be dogged by the investigation into alleged salary cap breaches by certain Premiership clubs with the World Cup a welcome distraction.

Fans' fury at the lack of transparency and the reported possibility of the whole affair being swept under the carpet as a result of some boardroom level deals has irked some supporters who have started a petition demanding full disclosure.

It is highly unlikely to lead to the release of further details with the investigation apparently still ongoing with The Rugby Paper reporting that the saga is set to continue until at least the next owners meeting at the end of the year.

The fans' frustrations aren't likely to go away – but if they are ignored they may do their talking with their feet and walk away from a game desperate for their loyalty.

Loose Pass is compiled by former scrum.com editor Graham Jenkins

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