I was very interested to read that the England rugby union forwards coach Graham Rowntree is “seeking clarification” on a number of decisions made by referee Steve Walsh during the Six Nations decider against Wales last Saturday.
Effectively, Rowntree is pointing the finger at Walsh for what he sees as questionable calls that ultimately had some impact on the outcome of the game –a reaction that is likely to provoke considerable mirth in the Principality.
Obviously I’m English and therefore not entirely impartial, but without being an expert on the technicalities of scrummaging, I certainly understand the frustration at being penalised by a free kick or penalty at eight out of the twelve scrums that were awarded and the players’reactions suggested they were struggling to understand exactly why they were being so consistently penalised.
That said, I would argue that in any team sport, you have to earn the right to play and essentially you effectively have to be good enough to take the referee, umpire or any other official out of the equation. Performances of officials in most popular sports will always come under scrutiny – they will make mistakes, because they’re human... but the media rarely focusses so closely on a player’s missed tackle, wayward pass or any other “error” that proves the human frailties we all possess.
Do I think that Steve Walsh was poor? Yes
Do I think that his decisions affected the game? Yes
Do I think that his performance changed the result? Absolutely not.
I thought the intensity of the Welsh performance was incredible. Their physical strength and fitness told during the second half, their defence was brutal at times (England’s defence was also excellent), their second try was superbly executed and there is no doubt at all in my mind that the best team emerged victorious.
I do think that England have a right to ask for clarification, but when such concerns are reported in the media, they will always likely to be accompanied by the words “sour” and “grapes” and I hope that any ensuing controversy doesn’t take the gloss off what was a truly magnificent effort by a fine Welsh side.
All my own work... almost.