LONDON • World Rugby has delivered an unprecedented public verdict on a referee's performance, assessing that Craig Joubert wrongly awarded Australia's winning penalty in their quarter-final defeat of Scotland at the World Cup.
But the sport's governing body has no plans to change the television match official (TMO) system.
Australia fly-half Bernard Foley converted the penalty in Sunday's match at Twickenham to give the Wallabies a 35-34 victory and send them into a semi-final against Argentina this weekend.
Distraught Scotland players and fans wondered why Joubert had not referred his decision to the TMO but the organisers World Rugby said that he had adhered to protocols.
It is important to clarify that, under the protocols, the referee could not refer to the television match official in this case and therefore had to rely on what he saw in real time.
WORLD RUGBY, explaining that Craig Joubert was not allowed to consult the TMO on whether his penalty award was correct
However, while the referee had not been permitted to consult the TMO, World Rugby issued a statement saying Joubert had made a mistake in awarding the penalty for "deliberate offside" by Scotland's Jon Welsh at a line-out in the 78th minute.
TV replays immediately showed an Australian player had touched the ball, putting Welsh onside.
"On review of all available angles, it is clear that after the knock-on, the ball was touched by Australia's Nick Phipps and Law 11.3(c) states that a player can be put onside by an opponent who intentionally plays the ball," World Rugby said on Monday.
"It is important to clarify that, under the protocols, the referee could not refer to the television match official in this case and therefore had to rely on what he saw in real time.
"In this case, Law 11.3(c) should have been applied, putting Welsh onside. The appropriate decision, therefore, should have been a scrum to Australia for the original knock-on."
A World Rugby spokesman had earlier indicated that the sport's governing body had no plans to review the use of the TMO despite the furore over Joubert's decision.
Howls of protest from players and pundits followed Scotland's defeat, all complaining that he had not consulted the TMO over the decision.
Rugby luminaries including Ian McGeechan, Clive Woodward, Michael Lynagh, Lawrence Dallaglio and Gavin Hastings, all working as media pundits, were united in saying the TMO should have been involved.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw and coach Vern Cotter also lamented the lack of a TMO referral, as did the vast majority of the near-80,000 Twickenham crowd, with boos ringing around the ground as Foley slotted the penalty.
World Rugby's rules clearly state that the TMO can only be used to determine acts of foul play, ruling on an infringement in the build-up to a try and to check the grounding of the ball and kicks at goal - but not whether the penalty for offside was correct.
"We held a pre-tournament briefing at Twickenham for media where John Jeffrey (head of the Rugby World Cup match officials' committee) explained, among other things, the TMO system," the World Rugby spokesman said, pointing out that at the start of the tournament, referees had been criticised for using the TMO too often.
World Rugby responded quickly to that issue, encouraging referees to talk to TMOs without stopping the game.
Fans would no doubt be unhappy if the games were stopped to review every penalty decision - often over 20 per match.
But there remained a simmering sense of dissatisfaction that even if protocol had been followed, such a huge match had been decided on a decision that everyone in the ground, via big-screen replays, could see appeared wrong.