In 1823, William Webb Ellis first picked up the ball in his arms and ran with it. And for the next 156 years forwards have been trying to work out why. - Tasker Watkins VC, LJ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

RWC Final - Aurélien Rougerie and Deadlines

About three days after the final whistle blew on the RWC Final, footage emerged of a ruck towards the end of the game. It was first shown properly on the NZ rugby show, Re:Union, and then it got picked up around the world. It showed Aurélien Rougerie, of Clermont and France, tussling with Richie McCaw, captain of New Zealand. It was claimed the footage showed Rougerie making contact with the area of McCaw's eyes (and if you think I'm being very neutral in my use of phrases; I am, deliberately so). 

You can see the footage, courtesy of HERE; a slow-motion gif HERE; and a screenshot from it HERE.

When you look at cases such as that of Richie Rees, it is hard to say that Rougerie does not have a case to answer on this - at the very least.

But, there's been nothing, even after this footage has come out. So - why not?

The Citing Commissioners hold their office for the RWC under the terms of the RWC Participation Agreement and the RWC Tournament Rules. They use the Tournament Disciplinary Code, which is based on - but not the same as - IRB Regulation 17 (this is with the caveat that, as I've commented on before, God forbid that we mere mortals who play, watch, and act as missionaries for the game be allowed to see them). So, they have office while the tournament lasts, but not after. The Judicial Officer (JO) is then appointed under the same TDC, and, again, that's only possible while the tournament lasts.

The citing window under Regulation 17 (and, so far as we know, the rules for the RWC) is open from 12 to 48 hours after the final whistle; outside that, on either side, you can't cite.

But, if the tournament ends less that 12 hours after the final whistle - and I include here the various ceremonies and dinners - can a citing for the final be made at all? If the tournament Citing Commissioner's powers end with the tournament, can he cite after the tournament has ended - which it did before the window opened? Even if he could, could the tournament JO hear after the tournament giving him his powers was over?

The mirror-image argument was raised in Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu's case, where he tried to claim that as Samoa had been knocked out of the RWC before the hearing, he was no longer subject to the tournament rules. It was rejected; at paragraph 25 of the decision, the learned Judge Blackett stated that "the tournament continues until after the final match".

But after the final match, it therefore follows the tournament ends - and so, it would seem, do the powers of the RWC Citing Commissioners.

In passing, this does raise a wider question; if those powers end after the final, (functus officio to use the technical jargon), before a citing for the final is possible, can there actually be any citings for the final at all? 

It would be interesting; but, as it happens, it's a bit academic. There has been no citing. And there now can be no citing. 

It may seem a bit unfair or arbitrary that an offence like this goes uncited. If proven, it's agreed it's about the worst thing that can be done on the rugby pitch. There is a good reason why this is so, though.

Any judicial system - not just rugby, but legal systems - tries to balance two things; comprehensiveness and finality. The first means it tries to get every dispute, or offence, dealt with; the second is the idea that there comes a point when, decided or not, it's time to move on. And, with a match each weekend, that's how it has to be in rugby; there has to be a time when the shutters are drawn down and it moves on to the next match. All such time limits are arbitrary, to some extent; there will always be cases where something crops up afterwards that changes the situation. But, if you could come back six months later and re-open matters, it would be open-ended; and that's as bad as nothing being punished.

So, here you have a case in point; what looks like a perfect case for a citing, but too late. Like a ref's decision on the pitch, sometimes you just have to accept that's that, and get on with it. 

That does not, however, stop anyone from having an opinion on the conduct in question. I think you can guess mine. I don't think I'm alone in it.

Update; the IRB have today issued a statement on this. You can read it HERE. It looks like things may be expanded; if they are, a bit of clarity mightn't go amiss - and  lot of openness.

1 comment:

  1. The footage was shown on NZ television (re:union) at 8.30pm on Tuesday following the RWC final (which finish approxaimately 11 pm Sunday - both times quoted are NZ times) so the footage was within the 48 hr window
    This footage was also following the newspaper article earlier that day (also within the 48 hr window and presumably within the 36 hr window that the IRB seems to be talking about recently) as the papers were defiantely out early that morning ie well before 11am.

    The IRB comment I've seen does talk about regualtion 17 and a 36 hour window for citing (and doesn't seem to mention a RWC specific time limit version)

    I'm confused as to the IRB statement as it does not seem to clarify the lack of action or the 36 vs 49 hr deadline.

    I leave it to others to decide whether an act of foul play occured, however I think the IRB should take citings more seriously and state for transparency where they had considered an action even if they do not take it further (which may have been the case for the eye contact and also the McCaw knee snd any other actions in debate in the forums following the final)

    I am un