Craig Joubert said protocols restricting referees from referring incidents for video evidence prevented him reversing his controversial penalty decision against Scotland in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final.
In an interview given to World Rugby, the South African referee has broken his silence about his fateful decision at the end of Scotland’s quarter-final with Australia at Twickenham last October.
Shortly after Mark Bennett’s interception try had given Scotland a shock lead, Joubert penalised the Scots at a defensive lineout when he adjudged Jon Welsh had taken the ball in an offside position.
Australia’s Bernard Foley kicked the resultant penalty to give the Wallabies – who went on to reach the final – a 35-34 victory.
World Rugby later took the unprecedented step of declaring Joubert’s decision to be wrong after TV evidence showed the ball had rebounded from Australia scrum-half Nick Phipps rather than the shoulder of Scotland back rower Josh Strauss.
In his interview Joubert admits that watching several replays after the game confirmed to him that Phipps had been the last player to touch the ball before Welsh.
“Play-off games are often cagey but this one was a great advertisement for our game,” says Joubert. “Unfortunately for too many it’ll only be remembered for that one moment.
“In real time it seemed like a clear-cut decision,” he continues. “It was only much later when I was able to sit and review the incident, and I had the benefit of slow motion replays from different angles that I could see Phipps had the slightest of touches.”
Joubert adds that he wasn’t allowed to check this incident with the TV match official (TMO).
“This incident fell outside of what we were allowed to refer under TMO protocol. It was simply a decision I had to make in real time.”
The incident was “a very difficult moment” which led to a “a very difficult time in my career”.
Joubert had since said that he left the field at the end of the game without shaking hands with Scottish players because he wished to avoid an incident such as had occurred between English coaches and an official earlier in the tournament.
One of World Rugby’s top ranked refs, Joubert returned to action in the middle for the England-Wales Six Nations game this spring.
He also ran the line in Scotland’s final championship game against Ireland in Dublin, and is believed to have met amicably with Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw and other team members during that weekend.