Rugby World Cup Judiciary, Does Your Lawyer Matter?

The bans that have been handed out at the Rugby World Cup have created a lot of column inches and tweets. The connects is that it’s fairly random and that the Tier 2 nations get treated harshly. Let’s have a look at the actual bans that have been handed out to see if this is true.

There have been 27 instances of the citing commissioner getting involved. In the pool stages there were 40 games so that means in 67.5% of games the ref misses a significant act of foul play. Of those 17 have gone on to a hearing with only 1 not getting a sanction. That means that 16 out of 40 games or 40% of the time the ref has missed giving out a red card. Considering that there has only been 1 red card and that was for 2 yellows and didn’t result in any further punishment, that is an amazing statistic. How many games would have had different results if 1 or more players had been removed?

Another way of putting that into perspective is that there have been 16 red cards at the 7 previous Rugby World Cup or an average of 2.3. 1995 and 1999 were the worst with 4 each and 2003 was the only tournament without any. According to the citing commissioners we should have seen as many in this tournament as the previous 7 put together. There is no way that this has been a dirty world cup so that feels excessive.

World Rugby have saved me the time and effort of going through all the citing reports by producing a summary. It doesn’t have all the data that I was going to look at but it contains the player, country, offence and ban.

Where the offence is the same all the players that were cited for that, get the same ban with the exception of Nick Blevins from Canada. His “Dangerous Tackles (Law 10.4(e) – involving contact with the neck)” was considered mid entry rather than low entry and so he got 5 rather than the normal 2 weeks. So from that point of view your lawyer does not matter.

Clearly individual situations can be argued one way or another but there appears to be consistency from the judiciary once it gets to a hearing. Where there is a difference is in who is getting cited in the first place:

Tier Country Number of Citings
1 Argentina 2
Australia 1
Ireland 1
Scotland 2
2 Canada 1
Fiji 3
Namibia 1
Romania 2
Samoa 2*
Tonga 2
Total Result   17

* One of the Samoa citings resulted in no ban.

Of the 17 citings, 11 have been for Tier 2 nations. Lucky we don’t have to worry about per game or anything like that as there were 10 Tier 1 and 10 Tier 2 nations in the group stages. So the Tier 2 nations have been cited nearly twice as often as the Tier 1 nations.

Some tier 2 nations haven’t been cited at all with Japan, USA and Georgia not causing the Citing Commissioner to lift a finger. With Uruguay only received a warning as you will see below. It doesn’t look like a universal issue but when you are talking one and twos it’s not going to be statistically significant for or against anyone country. I don’t know what it is that’s causing the Tier 2 nations to be cited more regularly than Their 1 nations. The officiating teams that are at the Rugby World Cup are the best globally just as the teams are. My guess is that the Tier 1 nations get officiated by these individuals on a regular basis where as the Tier 2 nations don’t. I think that if the Tier 2 nations got more games against Tier 1 teams and the top officiating teams then this would disappear as the players were more used to what is expected.

You’ll be starting to see a theme in this blog as to how I think Tier 2 nations should be helped. Games against Tier 1 nations was a central piece to “Helping the Island Nations Succeed at Rugby” and a conclusion in “World Rugby Funding – The Facts & Figures“. It’s something that has been called for by the Namibian team as they left the Rugby World Cup and the Tier 2 nations have been asking for for years. Are things going to change overnight? Maybe not but if we don’t keep highlighting it and asking for it then it definitely won’t happen.

On a side note I think it’s Interesting that if we look at the occasions where the citing officer thinks a yellow card has been missed and so issues a warning then the numbers are:

Tier Country Number of Citing Warnings
1 Australia 1
England 2
Scotland 1
Wales 1
2 Fiji 3
Samoa 1
Uruguay 1
Total Result   10

This one falls 50:50 but the really interesting thing to come out of this is that Fiji are the most cited and most warned country racking up 6 missed cards in 4 games. That’s nearly a quarter of the citing commissioners business at this Rugby World Cup.

Note: I’m having second thoughts about this as I have heard that the two Scotland players go off on appeal.

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