Ash the Splash
After England’s victory over Wales in the Six Nations, Martin Johnson was said to have been unimpressed with Chris Ashton’s showboating dive in scoring one of his 2 tries. Ashton himself said after the game “I won’t be doing that again”.
His repeat performance during the pool game against Georgia suggests that his memory is short. It may take Ashton dropping the ball in full flight or injuring himself to convince him that diving is an Olympic sport. There was an irony however as he suffered an elbow injury in scoring his second try in more traditional fashion.
Before the creation of rugby referees, the captains from both teams would set the rules down before the game began and arbitrate together as the game proceeded. Presumably many an argument was had during the post-match rehydration sessions. Since their introduction referees have been a source of controversy, and this World Cup is already presenting many such debates.
The winning team and their supporters rarely criticise the performance of the ref, the same however cannot always be said about the losers. All credit to the Wallabies for not raising questions over some of the inconsistent calls by Bryce Lawrence in the game against Ireland. At times he looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights and refereed accordingly.
There is a risk that a team will exit the RWC as a result of poor refereeing. The issue of neutrality means that the best official at the tournament may not take control of the final. I believe the final will be refereed by one of Alain Rolland, Craig Joubert or Wayne Barnes.
Forgetting about neutrality, who would you like to see referee the final?
A lot has been written about Quade Cooper’s character, defensive frailties and questionable tactical nous. He has been badly shown up in a number of high pressure situations, most notably against the All Blacks in Auckland during the Tri Nations.
In Berrick Barnes, the Wallabies have an immense talent, mature beyond his 25 years. Barnes played his first test match against Japan in the 2007 World Cup, scoring two tries on debut. He has won 32 caps in total despite a succession of cruel injuries.
The Cooper – Barnes (10 / 12) partnership was on show when the Wallabies beat France by a record score in Paris in November 2010. Barnes has yet to feature at RWC 2011, from an Australian perspective the sooner this pair are reunited the better.
Lovers of the hirsute look were lamenting the absence of Sebastian Chabal from this year’s World Cup. “Without the Beast, the tournament is going to be dominated by pretty boys”, the doubters cried. Now Chabal is a distant memory at what has become the hairiest World Cup to date.
In searching for the most prominent facial hair, New Zealand’s Franks brothers do not get a look in. Adam Jones of Wales hasn’t seen a razor in a long time, neither has Italian prop Martin Castrogiovanni. Namibia’s PJ Van Lill is a candidate for the award, as are Canadian’s Hubert Buydens and Jebb Sinclair.
However, the award for the Rugby Whiskers Champion for 2011 so far goes to Canadian flanker Adam Kleeberger.
If you disagree, please let me know!