British and Irish Lions Tour: The French Connection


Our in-house rugby scribe takes a look at the effects the French Officials may have on the British and Irish Lions Tour of New Zealand.

Most rugby punters cringe at the sight of a French referee being appointed to blow a game that they are having a strike on. Many sure fire bankers have been ruined by the likes of Romain Poite and Jerome Garces, with their whistle happy antics murdering what would have otherwise been a decent game of rugby. So why on earth have these men been appointed to officiate in the grandest rugby spectacle outside of a World Cup? I have no bloody idea, but like the entire population of New Zealand, I’m not too pleased about it.

The Lions have only played three tour matches thus far and already we’ve seen some horrific law interpretations from Frenchmen Mathieu Raynal and Pascal Gauzere. The former was at his comical worst during the British and Irish Lions versus the Crusaders game, pinging the Super Rugby franchise at virtually ever single scrum during the first stanza. His reasoning for this? The spacing between the two front rows being incorrect.

Now I’m by no means a scrum surgeon, but isn’t the job of the referee to ensure the gap between the two sides is correct before he gets into his call? To simply ping the Crusaders for pre-engaging is a massive cop out and makes me wonder if these men are actually qualified to oversee this major facet of the game.

Now I understand that the Northern hemisphere officials are completely against teams leaning in and being almost pre-engaged – something which has become a norm in Super Rugby – but for the love of all things rugby, don’t just blow off the players questioning the decision with the old “I told you and your coach yesterday how I was going to officiate these”. Let them know what the issue is so that they can at least address it and give the fans an actual contest to watch.

Another area which is a bit of a concern for me is how these men officiate advantage. I’m a big fan of the extended advantage that is synonymous with Super Rugby as I firmly believe teams should be encouraged to have a go at five points rather than settling for a three-point penalty even in the cauldron-like atmosphere that is a Test match. These Frenchmen seem to not share the same ideals as me, with Pascal Gauzere illustrating this during the Blues game. There were numerous opportunities for the Frenchman to continue playing advantage while the Blues went through the phases and crept closer towards the Lions try line. But instead of letting the play flow, Gauzere went for the whistle.

With the above in mind, I’m rather worried how two of the three Tests between the Lions and All Blacks will go. While the first is being officiated by South African Jaco Peyper, the second and third will be blown by Frenchmen with Jerome Garces set to oversee proceedings in Wellington and Roamin Poite, the official for the final Test at Eden Park. Both men take a schoolmaster sort of approach to their officiating and we could see a few cards dished out alongside some very strange interpretations at set piece time.

Written by Darry Worthington for!

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