With the world’s eyes on rugby union in what is the biggest sporting event of 2019, Gosper caused a social media stir when his Twitter account suddenly disappeared last week – the same day as World Rugby issued a statement condemning the standard of officiating at the tournament.
It’s understood that Gosper has made the decision to deactivate his account to take a break from social media and enjoy attending matches in Japan, though the timing of it has come as a shock given the importance of the tournament.
Gosper was one of World Rugby’s most prominent figures on social media along with current vice-president Agustin Pichot, the former Argentina captain, and interaction with fans before the tournament had been an aspect of their strategy praised by users on the platform.
Despite deactivating the account entirely – as opposed to simply deleting the app without removing the profile – it’s understood that Gosper does plan to return to Twitter once the tournament has concluded.
But the timing of his social media exit raised eyebrows as World Rugby had faced growing criticism over the first two weeks of the tournament. The governing body issued an extraordinary statement on 24 September to state that the standard of refereeing over the course of the first seven games of the tournament “were not consistently of the standards set” at the highest level of the game. Gosper’s account was deactivated at some point on the same day.
World Rugby have also moved to clarify decisions made by Australian referee Angus Gardner in Ireland’s shock loss against tournament hosts Japan last Saturday, with an admission that he made three incorrect offside calls against the Irish that contributed to their defeat.
Head coach Joe Schmidt revealed that the normal post-game communications between his team and World Rugby confirmed that Ireland should not have had three of the four offside calls made against them, and Schmidt even highlighted how that could impact their next match against Russia given that Jerome Garces will referee it, having been the assistant referee who made two of those three decisions.
"We were penalised for offside four times and we've now got the feedback that three of those were incorrect calls,” said Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. “People were asking us about our discipline.
"It's pretty hard to keep getting off the line and onto the front foot when you are getting those calls. Two of them were from an assistant referee who is going to be refereeing us on Thursday (Jerome Garces), so we know we’re going to have to be on our best behaviour.
"One thing I would say about this team is that they try to go out and deliver and, generally speaking, it's unusual for us to have a higher penalty count than our opponents.
“So it’s frustrating that in the first two games, I thought Wayne [Barnes] did a super job. I know that, to a degree, they were happy with how Wayne went in the first game [against Scotland] as well. That’s our fault if we were on the wrong side of the penalty count there but I do think we’ve got to try to look after that as best we can.”