Does the controversy at the end of Australia’s victory over Scotland this weekend suggest that rugby’s laws are too complex for their own good?

The fact that not only was it far from obvious whether or not an offence had even occurred, but that there was also confusion over whether or not the TMO could be used to adjudge if a penalty or scrum should be awarded is frankly ridiculous.

Ultimately it turns out that Craig Joubert was correct in that he didn’t go to the TMO as they can only be called upon in the event of a try scoring opportunity or an act of foul play. World Rugby have since announced however that he got the decision to award Australia a penalty rather than a scrum completely wrong.

Now, one of the beauties of rugby is the complexities and intricacies of the laws that allow teams to push them to the very edge. That being said, when we are in a situation where a team has missed out on a World Cup semi final because of confusion over the laws, then questions must be raised.


At the end of the day, there is no accounting for basic human error when it comes to referee’s making decisions during the heat of a game. However, how can it be that even 24 hours after the incident occurred, and the play has been watched thousands of times from every conceivable angle, that it is still not clear what the outcome should have been?

This isn’t a call for a huge overhaul of the laws, but simply for applying some common sense to proceeding to ensure we do not see repeats of such incidents. Referee’s already have a hard enough time dealing with set pieces like the scrums where teams go to extreme lengths in order to gain an advantage.

We therefore need to move towards a situation where a common sense approach is applied. The laws may currently prohibit an official from going to the TMO outside of try scoring or foul play moments, however can this not be extended to account for extreme circumstances.

There are plenty of issues with overuse of the TMO already, however surely allowing an official to consult with the TMO when a game literally hangs in the balance is simply common sense?

It also would not harm to clarify several of the laws such as the deliberate knock-on which has caused such uproar. Whilst it will not eradicate incorrect decisions from the game, it may go some way to helping referee’s make the correct decisions more often and avoid the unfair flak that is currently being aimed at Craig Joubert.