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O’Brien ‘red cards’ chirpy coaches

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Former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones, now mentor of the Reds, became the first official to be fined for speaking out about referees, but the International Rugby Board (IRB) intends to come down even harder on those who mouth off at match officials at the World Cup in France later this year.

Jones was slapped with a AU$10,000 fine, after the controversial mentor pleaded guilty to several breaches of the SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby) code of conduct. This follows his bitter comments on the performance of referee Matt Goddard in last Saturday’s Super 14 match between the Reds and the Brumbies. The Brumbies won 6-3 in a spiteful encounter.

The whole debate about whether coaches and players are allowed to criticise referees has elicited a strong emotional reaction in the past week, but IRB Referees boss Paddy O’Brien was warned that there is simply no room for coaches who publicly criticising referees.

O’Brien, in Sydney to discuss the trialling of new laws in the Australian domestic competition, refused to directly discuss Jones’ stinging criticism of Goddard or his subsequent fine.

But he urged coaches to go through the proper channels.

“Coaches mouthing off and blaming referees doesn’t do the game, referees or coaches any good,” O’Brien said.

According to NZPA O’Brien has confirmed written complaints backed by video evidence would be given serious consideration by the IRB at this year’s World Cup, but any public post-match criticism would be punished by fines or suspension.

“The really good coaches, and the teams that seem to be at the top of the world at the moment, are the ones that are very proactive in submitting reports to me, accompanied by clips where they think they’ve been hard done by.

“Those reports carry a lot of weight with our IRB referee selectors.”

O’Brien said referees were accountable for their mistakes and the IRB referee selectors would come down harshly on errors to ensure a high quality.

“We saw a bad call in November when England weren’t awarded a try against the All Blacks. We’ve been quite proactive in the media and saying the referee made a huge mistake, and we deal with that in our selection meetings.”

Jones, before pleading guilty to a Code of Conduct charge at a judicial hearing on Thursday, refused to back down from his comments on Goddard.

“I think I have a duty as coach to support my team to ensure we believe we get a fair go and the comments I have made have been in line with that,” Jones said.

“I think it is important to have a code of conduct. I don’t think you can continuously criticise any part of the game.

“You have to have some objectivity but at the same time if there is something wrong in the game you have to be able to voice it.

“As long as you don’t do it all the time, there needs to be a channel for it.”

Jones said referees needed to be accountable and called for them to attend post-match press conferences to explain their decisions, an innovation blocked by SANZAR last year.

It has been trialled, with great success, in South African domestic competitions, but other countries are not so keen on parading their match officials before the media hordes.

 

365 Digital

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