Mathieu Raynal: ‘I would make time wasting decision again despite abuse’

Australia's Bernard Foley with referee Mathieu Raynal in the closing stages of the Rugby Championship match between Australia and New Zealand - SHUTTERSTOCK
Australia's Bernard Foley with referee Mathieu Raynal in the closing stages of the Rugby Championship match between Australia and New Zealand - SHUTTERSTOCK

Mathieu Raynal has doubled down on his controversial decision to sanction Australian fly-half Bernard Foley for time-wasting but admitted he deleted his social media after the game in anticipation of the furious backlash.

The French referee came in for huge criticism after his call in the final minute of the first Bledisloe Cup match in  Melbourne, where he awarded New Zealand a last-minute scrum on Australia's five-metre line after Foley stalled when kicking to touch.

Jordie Barrett scored the match-winning try from the resulting set-piece but Raynal is adamant he made the correct call, claiming Foley "forced" him into making the decision and adding he had "no option" but to penalise the Wallabies fly-half.

"I didn’t make the decision," Raynal said after being named as the Top 14's best referee for the 2021-22 season in Paris on Monday night. "The player forced me to make that decision. When I gave three warnings, when I stopped the time, gave an official warning, asked him five times to play the ball, and when he didn’t play it he forced me to make this decision.

"When I engage in that process with a player he has to listen to me. I think I was very clear in what I expected from him. I have no option after that. I had to make a big decision at the end of a big game like that. That didn’t make me happy but when you engage in the process you have to go until the end I think.

"Nic White came after the last game on Saturday night [at Eden Park] with two beers in the changing room. He came to talk to me and I really appreciate what he told me in his name and in the name of the Australia team. I will not say publicly what our discussion was but I really appreciate what he did that night in Auckland."

Mathieu Raynal speaks to Nic White and Bernard Foley during the match between the Australia and the All Blacks - GETTY
Mathieu Raynal speaks to Nic White and Bernard Foley during the match between the Australia and the All Blacks - GETTY

Raynal, who would be among the candidates to referee next year's World Cup final if the showpiece were not to feature France, also admitted to deleting all social-media apps after the Melbourne finale - except one.

"When I make a decision like that, I know what the referee's role is, and I know what's going to happen after that so, just to protect myself and be comfortable for the second [Bledisloe] game, I deleted my social-media and newspaper apps - I only kept Candy Crush," Raynal added.

"I tried to protect my family and my son from the noise and everything around that. I made sure that they were comfortable and that they weren't affected.

"But it's my job. I know exactly what I want from the players and what I expect from them. I trust my process and most of the time I try to follow my process and respect my philosophy. Obviously, there is talk and noise, but it's my job to accept that and to stay strong in facing that situation."

Raynal faced accusations of inconsistency in the wake of New Zealand's 39-37 victory, both in terms of his policing of time-wasting time and in the time taken for a kick at goal, but the Frenchman was keen to rebuke such claims.

"We don’t speak about the same law – kick to goal is 60 seconds, kick to touch is without delay," Raynal said. "That’s two different laws in the law book.

"I made that [Foley] decision because I was facing a particular situation with particular facts. If you change the game, change the situation, change the facts, then you potentially change the decision. But... making that decision, I stand by it, because there were facts and a clear process that I engaged in with the players.

"[Cracking down on time-wasting] is not my role. But what do we want in our sport? What kind of picture do we want to deliver to the young viewers? Do you want to see your child wasting time on the ball? Do you want to see your child diving and play-acting? That's the real question. But my job is to referee."