Fabien Galthie: France lost to the Springboks in Rugby World Cup due to ‘refereeing decisions and rugby reasons’

Colin Newboult
France head coach Fabien Galthie.

France head coach Fabien Galthie.

France head coach Fabien Galthie has stated that referee Ben O’Keeffe admitted he ‘was not happy with his performance’ in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

Les Bleus, who hosted the tournament, were knocked out at the last-eight stage by eventual winners South Africa.

The Springboks emerged 29-28 triumphant to reach the semi-finals to leave the French utterly devastated.

Six Nations struggles

That disappointment seemed to linger and affect their early Six Nations performances as they lost heavily at home to Ireland.

They then escaped with a barely deserved win over Scotland at Murrayfield before almost succumbing to Italy in their third-round match.

Galthie himself appears to be struggling to get over that World Cup frustration and in his Six Nations debrief talked about O’Keeffe’s display in the quarter-final.

“We lost the quarter-final for rugby reasons but also for refereeing decisions. We also spoke about it with Ben O’Keeffe during a recent meeting at World Rugby,” he told reporters.

“The decision is part of the match, and we accept it. You will never see me react directly to a refereeing decision. But we can discuss it coldly.

“In a World Rugby committee, I therefore had the opportunity to speak with Ben O’Keeffe. At one point in the meeting, there was a discussion about the behaviour of the coaches.

“I took the floor and said that we had a major role as educators and that we must behave with respect towards the referees. This is fundamental.

“I told him that my players had been strongly impacted by questionable decisions. Everyone agreed on the fact that some decisions weren’t the right ones. He wasn’t at all happy with his performance either.”

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Debate over decisions

Refereeing decisions will inevitably be subject to debate when games have been decided by the narrowest of margins.

France themselves have benefited from tight calls at the end of matches recently in their victories over Scotland and England.

Those incidents were commented on vociferously in the aftermath but perhaps not as much as Kwagga Smith’s arms, with Galthie still annoyed that the Springboks back-rower was awarded a penalty.

“There is a ball turned over with elbows on the ground by Kwagga Smith which gives three points to the Springboks, for example,” he said.

“We today want to count on the work of regulation and rules undertaken in these World Rugby committees. We must make our voice heard.

“We must make our perception heard. We want to play on equal terms with the south and the mother nations of rugby.”

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