Loose Pass

Date published: October 6 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the Man of the Match madness, a surprisingly timid TMO and Danny Cipriani’s ill-advised team talk.

Man of the Match madness

You have got to feel for Wallabies playmaker Bernard Foley.

He delivers the performance of his life on the biggest stage and steers his country to one of their greatest victories but is denied what would have been a fully deserved Man of the Match honour by a ridiculous voting system.

In an embarrassing turn of events to rival his side's capitulation at Twickenham, England lock Joe Launchbury was awarded the prize after coming out ahead of Foley and the equally impressive Wallabies flanker David Pocock in a Twitter-based poll.

Launchbury deserves credit for rising to the occasion when so many of his team-mates didn’t but to crown him as the most outstanding player on the field was just plain ridiculous – just ask the England lock himself whose face was a picture as he posed with the trophy post-game.

But the warning signs have been there, most notably when, much to his astonishment, Georgia’s Mamuka Gorgodze was named the Man of the Match in the closing stages of his side’s seven-tries-to-one 43-10 defeat at the hands of New Zealand – that featured a hat-trick from All Blacks wing Julian Savea.

It must have sounded like a great idea to the tournament organisers, who were no doubt keen to leverage the increasing power of social media while sponsors Mastercard were probably falling over themselves to put their name to such a high-profile aspect of every match day – but I bet they are not smiling now.

This ill-advised popularity contest needs to be scrapped immediately to save the tournament, the players and the sponsors from any further embarrassment.

And I hope Launchbury left that trophy in the Wallabies' changing room after the game for Foley to find. 

Another shocker for Shaun?

It appears Shaun Veldsman just can’t stay away from the headlines.

The Television Match Official returned to centre stage during Australia’s victory over England and with a crucial intervention that went a long way to deciding the contest – but he was not so forthcoming earlier in the game following an incident that could have been just as pivotal.

Veldsman alerted referee Romain Poite to the reckless challenge from England’s Owen Farrell on Australia’s Michael Hooper in the closing stage of the one-sided contest that led to the Englishman’s yellow card which in turn effectively ended the hosts’ World Cup hopes.

The decision was correct and even if Farrell had escaped Veldsman’s eye, there is a good chance the dangerous tackle from team-mate Sam Burgess in the same move would have been punished with a similar sanction.

But Veldsman is guilty of not having spoken up on the stroke of half-time when Hooper was guilty of illegally thundering into England full-back Mike Brown at a ruck.

He may have taken his lead from Poite who swiftly awarded a penalty for a no-arms clear out but there was plenty of time for Veldsman to review the replays while Brown received treatment and then suggest to the referee that he have another look at the no-arms clear out.

Hooper perhaps should have had a spell in the sin-bin and there is clearly a case to answer with the Wallabies' flanker having been cited in the aftermath of the game and called to a disciplinary hearing that may well lead to a ban.

Australia’s dominance of the game cannot be questioned but would they have been so comfortable without one of their key weapons for 10 minutes?

England would no doubt have welcomed the numerical advantage but it must be said it would have taken a little more to get back into the game.

But it remains disappointing that one of the biggest matches in the tournament may have turned on a such a non-decision. 

A major Cip up

What was Danny Cipriani thinking?

It was an amazing brain fart from a player who is just one injury away from being drafted into England's World Cup squad.

In one way his headline-grabbing offering for a betting website, that boldly claimed no member of the Australia side would get into the England line-up, was understandable.

There was no way he was going to hail the pedigree of a Wallabies player and by doing so belittle the ability of an England player and potential team-mate.

Maybe the old Cipriani, who allegedly had a habit of alienating members of his own team, but not the new and improved Cips.

But his blinkered endorsment of the England squad and management backfired – badly.

His thoughts were quite rightly ridiculed on social media with many pointing out that surely any team in the world would happily roll out the welcome mat for the ball-pilfering brilliance of David Pocock or Michael Hooper.

But more importantly his attempted rallying call will no doubt have been pasted up in the Wallabies' team room and formed part of coach Michael Cheika's pre-match talk.

Former England coach Sir Clive Woodward did not help matters either.

"Contrary to popular belief, they are not the brightest team," he declared in his own high-profile newspaper column ahead of the game.

Woodward must have missed this year’s Rugby Championship and Australia’s victories over South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand on their way to the southern hemisphere title.

To his credit he has since eaten those words – what choice did he have? – but he should have known better than to offer such fuel to the Wallabies' fire.

Old habits die hard for Wilkinson 

England legend Jonny Wilkinson has been accused of looking a little uncomfortable in his current role of analyst for Rugby World Cup host broadcasters ITV which may be a little unfair on the former fly-half whose insight can be compelling – as it was in the wake of the drama at Twickenham at the weekend.

But he looked a lot more comfortable when reminding us all of his class – and his obsessive tendencies – in a viral YouTube offering this week.

The World Cup winner is the star of a film 'about total precision, finding ways to challenge yourself and improve your skills' produced by a clothing firm he has more than a passing interest in.

He quite clearly has still got it  – both the skills and the insatiably desire for perfection and he is clearly more at home on the pitch than off it.

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

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