England head coach Steve Borthwick has joined forces with predecessor Eddie Jones in criticising World Rugby over the red card chaos that has dominated the World Cup.
England flanker Tom Curry was the first player to have been sent off so far in this World Cup despite several other players avoiding red cards for similar levels of head contact. The latest example came on Thursday night when French lock Romain Taofifenua escaped red for making contact with the head of Uruguay scrum half Santiago Arata, which again drew attention to World Rugby’s use of the foul play bunker which adjudged it only a yellow.
Unlike with a Television Match Official, the public do not get to hear the explanations from officials in the bunker leading to widespread confusion during this World Cup at apparent inconsistent disciplinary decisions.
Curry will be replaced by Lewis Ludlam, who moves to No 8, for England’s second pool game against Japan on Sunday with props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler also coming into the starting XV from the side that defeated Argentina 27-10.
England came into the tournament with both captain Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola serving their own suspensions for high tackles, the former after World Rugby appealed against the captain’s initial let-off which has left a bitter taste in Borthwick’s mouth. “It has been said and noted that there has been a large amount of commentary from different sources about what appears to be a lack of consistency and transparency in the decision making process,” Borthwick said. “Now it’s not my role to comment on that, it’s World Rugby’s. I also not there was a tremendous amount of comment from World Rugby on Owen Farrell for a couple of weeks during our preparation for this tournament.
“It was a situation that went on and on with lots of comment from World Rugby. I note there hasn’t been very many comments from World Rugby - I’m told - in the last week or so. I will leave that to World Rugby.”
‘It is not making rugby a better spectacle’
Earlier on Friday, Jones took even greater issue with World Rugby’s use of the TMO and bunker system, claiming it is ruining rugby as a spectacle. “I think our use of the TMO in rugby is fraught with danger; that we’re asking a referee in the grandstand to make decisions on a different angle on the game, through video,” Jones said. “And it’s not making the game a better spectacle, it’s not making it a better game for the players, and I think we’re just lucky because international rugby is so popular. But I think we really need to improve the game and at the end of this World Cup there’ll be an opportunity to do that.”
When asked whether he would be willing, alongside other international coaches, to advise the governing body on such matters, Jones replied: “[World Rugby] don’t want to know.” However World Rugby reacted Jones’ accusation and in a statement released to Telegraph Sport said: “Along with other coaches at this RWC, Eddie has been actively and invaluably engaged in shaping the current and future shape of the game as a participant in the dedicated forums that led to the law application guidelines introduced this year aimed at promoting ball in flow and in agreeing in March the approach to officiating of key areas.”
As Telegraph Sport reported, both Sinckler and Vunipola return to England’s squad for the first time this World Cup, although the latter has to settle for a place on the bench where he has not sat since 2017. Ben Earl moves to openside to accommodate Ludlam’s selection at No 8 following an impressive cameo off the bench in Marseille where he made a dozen tackles in 14 minutes.
“Lewis is a great energy giver,” Borthwick said. “He is a great driver of this squad and very generous in helping other team mates improve and you always need those types of players in your team. Secondly, he has been a key leader of his club side for many seasons and I see that in him and I have seen that growth in him as a leader, certainly coming back and working with him again now after a few years. Thirdly, what he offers as a player. He carries, he runs hard and covers a lot of ground in defence, which I don’t think people often see; what he makes up, what he does often goes under the radar. He is that type of player and we value that here.”