Rugby: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wants clearer rules

Ken Owens is ruled offside as he catches the ball but referee Romain Poite later changed his mind to say it was an accidental infringement by the Lions hooker and the penalty was downgraded to a scrum.
Ken Owens is ruled offside as he catches the ball but referee Romain Poite later changed his mind to say it was an accidental infringement by the Lions hooker and the penalty was downgraded to a scrum.PHOTO: REUTERS

All Blacks coach says multiple interpretations confusing after ref reverses initial penalty call

AUCKLAND • All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has appealed for rugby's rules to be simplified, saying a referee's wrong call cost the All Blacks a chance to win the deciding Test against the visiting British and Irish Lions.

But Hansen admitted his team had also failed to make the most of other opportunities to win the third Test in Auckland which ended 15-15 on Saturday to leave the series drawn 1-1.

Immediately after the Test, he had refused to debate the controversial call by French referee Romain Poite in the dying seconds of the game when he awarded the All Blacks a close-range, kickable penalty and then changed his decision to a scrum.

After a night to reflect, Hansen said yesterday that Poite had been wrong and it was up to the bosses at World Rugby to make it easier to control the game.

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"There's always going to be human error, it doesn't matter who it is. But what we've got to do is help them, not bag them," Hansen said.

"That's a World Rugby thing. They lead this game, they run this game and with people within in that we've got to help the referees so it becomes easier and more simple for them to ref the game. It's a really complicated game."

'WRONG' DECISION

I bet he's not feeling good about that. He's a good man Romain and he hasn't done it deliberately.

STEVE HANSEN, All Blacks coach, who felt that referee Romain Poite should have allowed his team to play on, with the possibility of a match-winning try, instead of blowing for a Lions infringement.

In a climactic finish, with only seconds remaining and the score tied 15-15, the ball went forward from Lions full-back Liam Williams and was played by team-mate Ken Owens, who was in an offside position.

All Blacks centre Anton Lienert-Brown pounced on the ball and was heading for the try line when Poite blew his whistle and awarded a penalty for offside.

But, after viewing replays and conferring with the other three match officials, he changed his mind to say it was an accidental infringement by Owens and the penalty was downgraded to a scrum.

"I think they just overthought it," Hansen said. "If he'd trusted his instincts and gone with them he would have made the right decision. If he had felt like it was accidental, play on and LB (Lienert-Brown) scores under the posts and we wouldn't be having this conversation. But he didn't and then he got caught up in overthinking it and made a mistake.

"I bet he's not feeling good about that. He's a good man Romain and he hasn't done it deliberately."

Hansen said the problem lay in the rules of the game allowing multiple interpretations. But, while it cost the All Blacks the chance at a match-winning shot at goal, it was not the reason they had to settle for a draw.

"It's a game we could have won if we'd taken the opportunities we created," he said. "We played well enough to win the thing, we just didn't win it, we drew it."

Though Hansen was positive that the "road bumps" his side encountered would help them as they prepare for the next World Cup in 2019 in Japan, some pundits in rugby-mad New Zealand were quick to condemn the drawn series.

New Zealand Herald's Chris Rattue said the team had gone backwards during the series. "The All Blacks have been so bad in some areas that a World Cup re-think is inevitable," he said.

Hansen, however, said that people needed to take a step back and realise how good the Lions team had been. "It's pretty disrespectful to think just because we've drawn a series we've gone backwards," he said.

"We had a bump in the road against a well-coached team full of quality athletes, but you want a few road bumps, because somewhere they're going to hit you and you need to know how to deal with them."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2017, with the headline 'Hansen wants clearer rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe