RWC ends and I’m off to Greenwich and Vegas

This coming week I’m travelling from Dublin to Greenwich, CT for the last in the current series of Exchange 2010 Maestro training events where I’ll be joining up again with fellow MVPs Paul Robichaux and Brian Desmond to deliver around twenty hours of lectures between Wednesday and Friday. The lectures are supplemented with some group work and hands-on labs so our attendees won’t have much time on their hands. After that I’ll be heading to Las Vegas for Halloween – or rather, to deliver a keynote session at Exchange Connections at 8AM (local) on Wednesday, November 2. Should be good fun.

In rugby matters I was glad that New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup by beating France 8-7 in a game that surprised people because of the intense nature of the French performance that stretched the All Blacks to the very limit, forcing them to play out the last few minutes in a pick-and-drive style that they probably didn’t want to and keeping Kiwis around the world on tenderhooks. The All Blacks deserved to be acknowledged as the world’s #1 team as they won every one of their matches. France kept their best and most convincing performance until last but lost to both Tonga and New Zealand during the group stage.

Rugby World Cup 2011: New Zealand captain Richie McCaw salutes triumphant All Blacks after final victory over France

It was also good to see Richie McCaw, the All Black captain, win his 103rd cap. I have two particular memories of Richie McCaw in his early career. First, as a member of the Junior All Black side that won the IRB/FIRA U-19 World Cup in Wales in April 1999 and then when he won his first cap against Ireland at Lansdowne Road on 17 November 2001. I was the assistant referee for the final (Steve Lander of England was in the middle), which New Zealand won 25-0 against Wales in Stradey Park, Llanelli. Other future All Blacks in that squad included Jerry Collins, Mils Muliaina, and Aaron Mauger. The Welsh team had future internationals in Adam Jones, Dwayne Peel, Rhys Williams, Jamie Robinson, Ceri Sweeney, Ryan Powell, James Bater and Michael Owen. While McCaw is probably the pick of the bunch, a lot of other quality players came through to full international level from that tournament. Some excellent referees were there too including Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand), Joel Judge (France), and JC Fortuin (South Africa) (see group shot below).

Referees at the IRB/FIRA U-19 World Cup in Wales 1999

New Zealand beat the Irish team in their semi-final. In the other game, Wales drew 10-10 with South Africa and went through to the final on the basis that they had scored a penalty and a goal against a drop goal and goal! The rules of that tournament were a little hard to understand at the time… I refereed that semi-final and didn’t quite know what would happen at the final whistle until the crowd went crazy when the announcer said that Wales had won on a technicality. The game was televised live and played in front of around 15,000 people in Bridgend. Standing between the Welsh and South African teams as they belted out their national anthems before that game is still one of my best rugby memories!

The All Blacks won the 2001 game by 29-40 after being behind 16-7 at half time. It was one of the “could have” games for Ireland who played with controlled ferocity in the first half before the greater physical strength and fitness of the All Blacks secured the victory. On this occasion I patrolled the sideline as the reserve official (No. 4 – the referee was Andre Watson of South Africa) and spent most of my time attempting to control the All Black bench. Ten years ago the International Rugby Board (IRB) didn’t exert the same kind of control that exists today on sideline activities where each team is limited to the number of people that can enter the pitch and where those people can position themselves. It was a constant struggle to stop water bottles being thrown onto the pitch like grenades, manage substitutions, and so on.

Even though he was relatively young, McCaw played well that day and showed some of the promise that he has so richly fulfilled since. He was presented with the traditional first cap at the dinner that night and was good enough to share a drink at the referees’ table afterwards. 102 test matches later he’s still a winner and deserved to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy today.

On other matters, blog posts elsewhere this week were a commentary on the retirement of Shane Robison as HP’s CTO, thoughts about some goodness that might have lurked in the RIM (BlackBerry) outage, and relief that Microsoft has eventually fixed the IE9 bug that affected the Exchange Management Console (EMC). I also enjoyed the TEC 2011 EMEA event in Frankfurt where I had the chance to chat with many old acquaintances. It was nice to meet up.

Now on to the U.S., training, and more conferences. It’s a busy time.

– Tony


About Tony Redmond

Lead author for the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook and writer about all aspects of the Office 365 ecosystem.
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10 Responses to RWC ends and I’m off to Greenwich and Vegas

  1. Philippe Laurent says:

    What do you think about the referee performance during this match ?

  2. Philippe Laurent says:

    Thank you for your answer, but you can imagine that many observers do not share your opinion.
    Not only french one.

    Of course we are not talking about violence.
    Competition for the ball ? yes ! but under conditions clearly described in the rules…

    French players and coaches are stressed for many years because most of matches against England were lost because theses rules weren’t perfectly followed (we can call it the “Wilkinson Era”).
    They are mature now (thanks to … english coaches !) and when you see a part of the french team hanging on arms while playing and begging Mr Joubert about several acts in the rucks, you may honestly consider something was wrong sometimes during this final…

    However, I’m a simple supporter, not a blind one.
    Three observations I consider as fair.

    1) The referee is part of the game : New Zealand has won the world cup thanks to him, exactly like France won against New Zealand four years ago. I must admit Mr Barnes did a very few mistakes that gave the victory to the french team. In the same way, it is not correct to say Mr Joubert did a good job.

    2) The New Zealand team is the best team of the world (and not only nowadays) but in the sport history the best teams may loose a major competition. Hungary or the Netherlands may testify (Football world cup). I’m happy for this generation of New Zealand players : they will not know this nightmare.

    3) Definitely, when the host team is in final, there is nearly no place for his opponent to win… (check, it’s very very seldom)

    • There’s been quite a lot of commentary about the breakdown from yesterday’s game.

      I hold to my position that the referee allowed competition for the ball. After all, if he had not France would not have scored their try as this came directly from Rougerie being allowed to come (quite legally) through the center of a ruck to compete for the ball.

      I refereed in France for three seasons (1986-1989) with the Comite de Cote d’Azur and have been back many times since to referee games (and now TMO), so I think that I have a fair grasp of French rugby. Yesterday France played with enormous passion and intensity at the breakdown and sometimes passion goes a little far and can result in giving away a penalty. Intensity is living on a knife edge and the referee has to arbitrate on what he sees in front of him and not what appears on a TV screen. He does not have the advantage of slow motion replay and has to deal with a dynamic situation and fast-changing offside lines. The good referees (and Craig Joubert is a very good referee) have great situational awareness and can quickly assess what’s happening in front of them to decide whether it is legal or not. And while you can always debate some refereeing calls after a game, I don’t think that he really influenced it to a point where “New Zealand won the World Cup thanks to him”. That’s silly – if he had given NZ a penalty try in the last minute on dubious grounds you might be able to make the case but not here.

      Two other points I would make. First, players see a position from their perspective and are prone to appeal for anything and everything. However, they do not see the position that the referee sees and often don’t understand the laws as well as the referee does. Therefore I take any appeal by a player with a grain of salt – international players play the game right at the edge and take everything that they can in terms of decisions that they influence. That’s why they appeal so often and so loud (and with gestures). Second, a game like the World Cup final puts enormous pressure on both players and officials. Players make mistakes such as missing tackles or kicks. Referees are not perfect either and do make mistakes. But I didn’t see any obvious howlers yesterday apart from a marginal high tackle that might have been penalized by another referee. Then again, both Craig Joubert and Alain Rolland were much closer than any of us to the action and both decided that the tackle was not dangerous or intentional and played on. The referee is sole judge of fact and of law and that was their decision.

      You’re right that hosts have an advantage. NZ 1987, SA 1995, NZ 2011. But England lost a RWC final at home in 1991 and Australia lost in 2003. Wales didn’t get to the final in 1999 and France didn’t in 2007. Therefore RWC has a record of 3 home wins, 2 home defeats, and 2 hosts that didn’t get to the final. That’s hardly a strong case for asserting that when the host team is in the final their opponents cannot win.


      – Tony

      • Philippe Laurent says:

        Thank you very much for this detailed answer.

        You’re right, some words must be moderated.
        “win thanks to the referee” is ahead of what I think (my english is far from being perfect). I have no doubt about Mr Joubert integrity and the fact he is one of the best in his domain. We definitely are not in front a scandal.

        However, the example you give is a good one : playing “standing” through the center of a ruck is allowed but my understanding is that it is forbidden arriving on side or moving (or putting hands) while at the ground. This is the point where french players and supporters (including me) feel frustrated on some sequences and believe France has not been able to take the score because of referree’s interpretation of NZ acts.

        My personal opinion is that Rugby is not american football. The referee has not a 360° view and the play is open to interpretation and different “styles” of refereeing. It seems the New Zealand team, more than the french one, understood better the Mr Joubert’s style during this match…

        I completely share your opinion about high tackle. Some friends were upset but honestly the play is so fast sometimes that it’s obvious that there is no bad intention (as soon as the tackler does not insist). And french players are often smaller…

        I did not like however the way Morgan Parra was hitted by Richie Mac Caw. (we’we seen at least twice the replay of his knee and hand…). Even in the action, even if he’s a great player, it’s hard to understand…

        As far as the host nations are concerned, thank you for the correction.
        Just a precision : I considered only the times where the host nation is in the FINAL game. Even though, as far as RWC is concerned, it’s quite equilibrated (3 wins for 5 finals. I did not remember England was in final in 1991 but in France we have a poor memory about this tournement…).
        It seems deeper statistics in football are more spectacular… (again, the host nation may “often” be out before the FINAL game, but when in FINAL, lost games are rare …).

        A last point : from your opinion are french players less undisciplined they used to be ?



      • First, I do think that French players are more disciplined now than they were when I refereed in France. As the professional era has evolved, French players have become as disciplined as any other team – a fact that you can verify in the statistics for this world cup.

        Second, “side entry” is forbidden at rucks as players must “come through the gate”. The same is true for “hands in the ruck”. However, some latitude is given to players who free the ball on the ground to make it available. Referees penalize clear and obvious situations where players attempt to steal the ball on the ground by using their hands to take the ball back on their side when their opponents have clearly won the ball. I think this happened a couple of times yesterday.

        Third, I don’t think that Richie McCaw intended to harm Morgan Parra in any way. It was unfortunate that his knee hit Parra’s head and forced him to leave the field. This happens in rugby. It is, after all, a game of high-speed violent collisions and knees do make contact with heads (unfortunately). You could argue that the French team benefited from the substitution as Trinh-Dhuc played well.

        Last, it’s probable that the All Blacks are more familiar with Craig Joubert than France simply because the majority of their players will have experienced his refereeing during the Super 14. However, it’s also true that professional teams all maintain dossiers on referees and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the referees who are appointed to oversee their games. International teams are refereed by a small group of referees and have in-depth knowledge of everyone they are likely to come across, so I imagine that both France and NZ prepared for Craig Joubert. Maybe NZ did a better job?


  3. Philippe Laurent says:

    Another standpoint from a non french observer…

    • Richie McCaw has not been cited so all the hoo-hah about hitting Parra with his knee is so much hot air. The citing commissioner does not intervene unless a player’s action would have warranted a red card. In this instance there doesn’t seem to have been any intent to harm Parra. It was just one of those things that happens on a rugby pitch.

      As to the comments about the refereeing, I do love when journalists make these remarks, especially when none of them have ever attempted to referee a top-quality game. They comment from a position where they are a) helped by video replay and b) often affected by the comments of others around them. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and words have to be written to fill pages, but I just wonder at some of the comments…


  4. Philippe Laurent says:

    final word to Thierry Dusautoir ? (You should appreciate. I presume you read french)


  5. Yes, it is so true that small things are exaggerated by the media. TD is absolutely right.


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