Scotland’s victory in Paris was a good result for France. I’ll try to explain. There was a smell of something in the air recently, maybe arrogance?
Ever since Fabien Galthié broke the Covid camp, that scent has been around the place – a feeling of ‘this Six Nations is ours’. The love that followed between the former Minister of Sports, the president of the FFR Bernard Laporte, and the current outgoing Roxana Maracineanu, was, it seems, a match made in heaven. At each other’s throats a few days earlier, divorce seemed inevitable. Then it was reported that they met over lunch.
Laporte is the master tactician. We can imagine him saying, as we poured out the best of Bordeaux, “of course, if you want, dear Roxana, I will sack Monsieur Galthie, but that will see our World Cup plans, here at home, s ‘ignite. Not too many votes for you in there, I think.
Realizing the subsequent announcement that everything in the garden was pink and that no bubbles had burst apart from those in the party bottle of “sparkling” was nothing short of genius.
France has a bad habit of following epic victories with equally epic defeats. In 1987, they did not make the final against New Zealand after an unexpected semi-final victory over Australia. In 1999, with Galthié in the scrum half, again failed in the final, this time in Australia.
In 2007, they guillotined New Zealand in the quarterfinals, but then put their own heads on the chopping block, immediately losing to England. Their third final loss was against New Zealand in 2011.
Total “against” points in the final, 72 with only 28 for. South Africa have three out of three final wins. This is all a frightening reality check.
Losing to Scotland has definite advantages, provided France realizes that it is imperative to find a system that can win individual matches of very different styles and finish the job when it comes to tournaments. . There is so much more to be done to avoid another epic loss.
Also know that playing basketball on a drenched Parisian night would never provide the answer.
Before the game we had hoped for a “calmer” Wayne Barnes and, in all fairness, he tried to deliver – more concise and more professional. Work in progress.
Finn Russell’s red card was a pretty tough call, but Barnes gave it as he saw it. Barnes was right then not to grant a penalty try to France, the embarrassed Damian Penaud falling on the ball to score could not have improved the position of his touchdown.
The new structure of World Rugby will hold everyone to account, very politely, but very firmly; managers know where they are going
There were a few decision details to study and learn. The use of first names must also cease. When delivering cards, it’s just weird nonsense.
And a malfunction of the yellow card. After giving a bunch of penalties, Scotland then broke several times in the same move, but only received a warning. It was a carbon copy of Barnes’ colleague Luke Pearce on Friday when Exeter conceded five successive penalties to Gloucester – also a warning.
World Rugby is committed to reducing the amount of referee chatter, and officials need to be in the playlist groove for every match, not coming back “to type” in their own union competitions.
The new structure of World Rugby will hold everyone to account, very politely, but very firmly; managers know where they are going. The referees, who have the ambition to accompany them to the next World Cup, must realize that there is no guarantee. Hope they know.
While Bob Dylan scratches “changing times”, it is not before time.
On a recent Zoom call, around 20 people, we were split in half to predict the outcome of Leinster v Munster. Fifty percent turned out to be completely inaccurate, Munster dropped more than 10 people.
The boys in blue should have been out of sight at halftime, but missing the opportunities and failing to cross the line the score was just six apiece. Mike Adamson was recently in charge of Italy against England, enough said. On Saturday he was a little better.
Tommy Bowe asked his panel how they thought the referee was doing, I think it was Peter Stringer who said “okay” and that’s the word that comes to mind. Adamson did nothing to change the outcome and he protected the space well, which is a recent and welcome feature these days.
But some sanctions seemed unnecessary, and some seemed incorrect or inconsistent. Here’s an overly punitive incorrect penalty, three points too – Munster’s Niall Scannell turned out to be out of his feet on the breakdown, but Adamson didn’t notice it was Rory O’Loughlin who upset him. Penalty the other way around, please.
A severe scrum advantage penalty (the ball had just come out) against Munster was awarded, after Adamson returned to the offensive. Leinster later collapsed the scrum, but the referee didn’t come back as he hadn’t thought of calling the advantage this time around. Munster would have appreciated consistency.
There were no maps, but it could have been. Chris Farrell was fortunate that his shot at Ross Byrne was not taken a closer look. Andrew Porter’s technique went awry as his head collided with Jean Kleyn, who needed treatment; that should have left time for a full review. Those other boys in blue would have had Porter and Farrell questioned.
So Munster really has very serious problems. They never seemed to mount anything threatening or endure decent periods of attack, all of their old fury and aggression missing. The coaching staff are on the cutting edge now, and need some big results to deflect the enormous pressure that is sure to come.
These few months have been bright and exciting. The players, coaches and match officials have all lived and traveled under incredibly difficult circumstances. They all deserve our standing ovation and our thanks.
Owen Doyle is a former Test Referee and former Director of Referees at IRFU