Rugby World Cup semi-final referee has already admitted making Farrell mistake

Earl and England look ahead to Rugby World Cup semi-final

Rugby World Cup referee Angus Gardner has already admitted to making a mistake when he failed to penalise England captain Owen Farrell for what looked to be a no-arms tackle on Andre Esterhuizen in 2018. Gardner is one of the sport’s most respected officials and is set to take charge of New Zealand’s semi-final with Argentina on Friday, but will be hoping to avoid a repeat of his high-profile controversial call.

England managed to fight off South Africa and seal a narrow 12-11 victory over the Springbok in Autumn five years ago, but may have felt fortunate that their opponents were not awarded a late penalty for what many thought was an infringement by Farrell.

Farrell was accused of not making enough of an arm wrap on Esterhuizen, but after Gardner checked with his TMO no penalty was called and without a penalty to their name – South Africa suffered at Twickenham.

Speaking after the incident on the Will Greenwood Podcast a few days later, Gardner admitted that he got the decision wrong in not penalising the England fly-half as he should have awarded a penalty to the visitors.

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“I think in hindsight now, having discussed it with some other referees… I think the general consensus would be that a penalty was probably the outcome there that should have been given,” the referee said. “I think we need to see a wrap with both arms, and I think in hindsight – although he got pinned – there wasn’t a big enough wrap from both arms, really. There was a wrap with one arm, but there wasn’t a wrap with the other arm.

“Of the angles that I was shown in the stadium at the time, that seemed to me to be enough of a wrap for me to constitute a legal tackle. It was never high, and so all we were looking at was the tackle technique. The collision itself also kind of swayed my decision because it was a big rugby collision, and we see these hits in the game.”

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Gardner is widely regarded as one of the top rugby referees and his honesty will have been appreciated at the time, though South Africa were unable to get that penalty late on five years ago. His candid nature will have only endeared him further to players on the pitch, as he prepares to be the man in the middle for New Zealand’s semi with Argentina.

“We don’t always get it right, and we understand that there are going to be decisions that are going to heavily influence the game,” Gardner added. “At this level the expectation is that we do get it right – and that’s what we’re striving to achieve – but we don’t always.

“I suppose that’s the best way, just to be honest about it. If I made a mistake, I’ve got to put my hand up and say I was wrong, and hopefully if I see that again then I’ll know where I’m heading.”

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