By Andrew Hollely
South African Test referee Andre Watson refused to be drawn into a mud-slinging match with England coach Clive Woodward on Friday after the latter was reported to be unsatisfied with Watson's handling of Saturday's dramatic World Cup final.
According to media reports in England on Friday, Woodward is to make a formal protest to the International Rugby Board over Watson's refereeing of the finale against Australia, which the English won in extra-time.
A series of penalties imposed on the England front row in the scrums - the last of which Elton Flatley kicked to send the final into extra-time - were considered unfair and incorrect.
The reports said Woodward is apparently drafting an offical letter of complaint about Watson's display to the IRB.
"I'm not aware of those reports," said Watson in response, "but people have rights to say what they want. I can't stop them doing that."
"I'm not going to get into a mud-slinging match with (Woodward) and after looking at the video I was satisfied with my handling of the match and that includes the scrum infringements," said the number one-rated referee in the world.
Watson was praised for his handling of the Australia/Ireland pool match and the New Zealand/Wales quarterfinal - matches that many believe were among the best in the 48-match tournament.
It was for these outstanding displays that Watson was entrusted with the title-decider and the overwhelming opinion is that it was the most exciting match in World Cup history.
It is unlikely that the complaint will even reach the offices of the IRB as it would have to be endorsed by the Rugby Football Union, who are unlikely to take discipline against one of rugby's most senior match officials.
"I ref what I see and nothing else and I was happy with my performance. If there were any problems, they will have been noted by the IRB and I have not had any comebacks from them."
Watson made history by becoming the first referee to handle two World Cup finals after he was involved in the 1999 final in Cardiff when Australia beat France.
Woodward and his assistant Andy Robinson confronted Watson after the match to ask why he had penalised England six times for scrum illegalities.
"We went through the whole tournament without a scrum penalty and tonight we conceded six," Woodward was quoted as saying from Sydney last Saturday.
However, Woodward's displeasure should also be directed at New Zealand touch judges Paul Honiss and Paddy O'Brien who drew Watson's attention to England scrum infringements.
Watson has refereed a record four Super 12 finals, a record six Currie Cup finals and in 1999 had the distinction of being in charge of the Super 12, Currie Cup and World Cup finals.