Referee Pascal Gauzere admits he got it wrong with two Wales tries against England

Tom Cary
·3-min read
Referee Pascal Gauzere awards the Josh Adams try as George Ford protests - AFP
Referee Pascal Gauzere awards the Josh Adams try as George Ford protests - AFP

Joël Jutge, World Rugby’s Head of Match Officials, says Pascal Gauzere has acknowledged to him that he got both contentious first-half incidents wrong in Saturday’s Six Nations clash between Wales and England.

Wales won 40-24 in Cardiff to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive. But there was there was huge controversy after Gauzere awarded Wayne Pivac's side two first-half tries. Jutge told Midi Olympiqe that he had spoken with Gauzere by telephone on Sunday morning and that the Frenchman was the “first to admit” he had erred.

“I think one has to be transparent, say what one thinks rather than let things fester,” Jutge said. “In this game there were two unfortunate incidents, which were not simple to manage. I know from having spoken to him by phone on Sunday morning that Pascal Gauzere recognises that himself.”

The first incident occurred when Gauzere told England captain Owen Farrell to talk to his players about ill discipline, indicating “time off”, before blowing his whistle to indicate ‘time on’ and allowing Wales' Dan Biggar to take a penalty while the visitors were still in a huddle under the posts. Biggar kicked to the corner where Josh Adams gathered and scored.

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Former England captain Martin Johnson described it as “appalling refereeing” and former Wales captain Sam Warburton admitted he would have been “fuming” had he been in Farrell’s position.

“From the moment when the referee says ‘time on’ the game can recommence,” Jutge explained. “Except that it was on him [Gauzere] to make sure the English had had material time to reorganise themselves, because it was him who had asked the captain to speak to his players.”

The second controversy centred on whether wing Louis Rees-Zammit knocked the ball on while attempting to gather a grubber kick. The ball went forward but ended up bouncing back off his leg and was eventually gathered by Liam Williams who crossed. Gauzere awarded the try.

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“The ball was not under the control of the Welsh wing and went forward on to his thigh,” Jutge said. “In the laws such as they’re written, there isn’t this notion of loss of control, that’s why this situation lends itself to confusion.

“But the reality is that if [Gauzere] had blown up for a knock-on, no one would have been able to complain... it’s one of the perverse effects of the TMO, that we sometimes have a tendency to look too hard with a microscope. There is a balance to be struck and in this case, a simple bit of common sense would have sufficed. There is a loss of control, the ball goes forward, so it’s a knock on. Pascal looked at the situation on Sunday morning and he is the first to admit it. When you make a mistake, it’s best to own up and be transparent. It doesn’t change the fact that he is an excellent international referee.”

England have said they will not make an official complaint to World Rugby, although head coach Eddie Jones was clearly hugely frustrated.

“They're huge decisions,” he said after the game. “We can't debate it, we are not allowed to debate it. All I will end up with is a fine and that won't help anyone.

“The dog won't be able to eat its food, wife won't be able to eat, so I can't say anything.”