Saturday’s controversial decision to send Sam Warburton off might have cost Irish referee Alain Rolland back to back World Cup Finals. Rolland dismissed the Welsh captain for a dump tackle on Vincent Clerc and has been the focus of much criticism from the rugby World.
Despite the criticism, the IRB backed their referee after giving Warburton a three week ban. The Final has been awarded to South African whistle blower Craig Joubart with Rolland performing touch judge duties and also handed back up referee role if Joubart is forced to retire. Nigel Owens will also be on touch judge duty. The decision will spark fury, mainly from Welsh fans but IRB referee chief Paddy O’Brien praised Rolland’s handling of the situation.
“The IRB Match Official Selection Committee was delighted with Craig and Alain’s performances in the semi-finals. Alain will perform the reserve referee role should he be required,” he said. “On behalf of the Committee and all of the team I would like to congratulate Craig, Wayne and all the guys on their selection, which is entirely on merit.
“We may be nearing the conclusion of what has been a truly superb Rugby World Cup, but our focus remains firmly on consistency, penalising the clear and the obvious and tackling the ‘big five’ areas.
“Collectively we continue to work together as a unit and maintain a zero tolerance attitude towards infringements and foul play across the key areas of the Game. In that regard, I would also like to thank the coaches for their buy-in to the process during this tournament.”
Unsurprisingly, Joubert is delighted at having been chosen to referee the most important match in rugby. “It is an enormous honour to get the final and I would like to thank Paddy and the Committee for giving me the opportunity,” he said.
“The whole team has performed superbly, assisted each other and bonded over the course of the last six weeks and I would like to thank them for their support and best wishes. I am now really looking forward to getting out there and enjoying the occasion.”
Meanwhile, Wayne Barnes will be the man in the middle for Friday’s third-place play-off between Australia and Wales. Romain Poite of France and Ireland’s George Clancy will be Barnes’ assistants, with Shaun Veldsman the designated TMO.