DUNEDIN – Frustrated All Blacks and Wallabies coaches Steve Hansen and Michael Cheika have called on World Rugby to tidy up the rules of the game after contentious refereeing decisions marred their June Test series.
"Commonsense should surely prevail," Hansen said Sunday after the All Blacks third Test against France produced more anguish from Les Blues over decisions that went against them.
The third Test in Australia between the Wallabies and Ireland also ended in a refereeing controversy. Hansen said it was time the sport's governing body became more accountable and reactive to feedback from coaches.
"It has got to a point where we have got to do something. Because it is starting to affect the game," Hansen said, noting that he would probably "get a slap on the knuckles for talking too much" but he believed rugby would benefit by moving with the times.
"I keep saying the game is not black and white. It's a fluid game which is going to have grey patches and you can't rule on it as if it is black and white.
"It's about intention and it's pretty obvious when someone intends to hurt someone and it's pretty obvious when they don't. That's my opinion.
"They (World Rugby) may see it differently. While we're busy trying to eradicate concussions and stuff we've also got to acknowledge that it's a contact sport and there's going to be the odd accident in it."
France were outraged in the third Test when Irish referee John Lacey accidentally impeded would-be tackler Baptiste Serin when Damian McKenzie scored to put the All Blacks ahead 21-14 at half-time on their way to a 49-14 victory.
They were similarly incensed in the second Test when Australian referee Angus Gardner sent off Benjamin Fall for a collision with Beauden Barrett, although a judicial panel later rescinded the red card.
Wallabies fullback Israel Folau was yellow carded after a similar incident against Ireland on Saturday, and Cheika was further upset when his side were denied an attacking penalty on full-time when they trailed 20-16.
An exasperated Cheika said World Rugby needed to clarify the rules.
"The key word these days is 'clear' and 'obvious', isn't it? I don't know anything that's clear and obvious in a game of footy. But they run with it," he said.
Hansen said allegations that referees assisted some teams, notably the All Blacks were "ridiculous", and it was up to World Rugby to adapt the game to suit the times.
In the case of McKenzie's try "the French halfback runs into the referee, the referee doesn't run into him. Cheika's not happy with how his game was reffed. It's a difficult game to referee because it's got faster, it's really fluid.
"We haven't really changed the way we ref. We are still doing it the way we used to," he said adding that in addition to the onfield whistleblower the television match official (TMO) "had a lot to say in it".
In the third Test, All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell was awarded a try only for the TMO, George Ayoub, to disagree and the try was disallowed.
"I heard the referee say 'I saw a clear grounding' and then the try is not awarded. So who is controlling the game?" Hansen asked.
Hansen and Cheika both believed it was important for referees to get more direction and support from the top.
Hansen has previously proposed a "challenge", similar to many other sports where teams have one or two challenges per game to contest a referee's decision. Although he received support from a number of other coaches, the idea was not supported by World Rugby.