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Ireland's discipline unsatisfactory as referee Wayne Barnes comes under scrutiny

Paul O’Connell admitted to some frustration with the breakdown area.

Barnes dished out two yellow cards
Barnes dished out two yellow cards
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

PHILIPPE SAINT-ANDRÉ was asked what he thought of referee Wayne Barnes’ performance immediately after seeing his side give away 14 penalties during their 18-11 defeat to Ireland.

The France head coach burst into sarcastic laughter, paused and then laughed again.

“Ah… I need to watch the game… I feel we were penalised a lot… We should have been better also.”

The refusal to comment any further perhaps made Saint-André’s point all the clearer, but there was frustration at the refereeing of this Six Nations tie on the other side of the coin too.

Ireland gave up 11 penalties to the French and had hooker Rory Best sin binned in a display that was uncharacteristically lacking in discipline. Under Joe Schmidt, one of the pillars of this Irish side is consistently strong discipline; yesterday was unsatisfactory.

“We wanted to go for it [in the final 20 minutes] but I don’t think our discipline was good enough today,” said openside flanker Sean O’Brien post-match.

I’m not sure of the penalty count yet but I thought it was over 10. That’s probably not good enough for the next day [against England]. That put us under pressure a bit, our own discipline, so we couldn’t really go after them.”

France managed to win at at least four penalties at the breakdown, the likes of Mathieu Bastareaud, Eddy Ben Arous and Thierry Dusautoir getting into strong jackal positions from which Ireland found them difficult to shift.

Captain Paul O’Connell hinted at a degree of displeasure at Barnes’ refereeing of this area, while also underlining the difficulty of the Englishman’s job with such an intense breakdown battle being played out.

“There was obviously a few scrum penalties, which when you’re in the second row it’s hard to tell what’s happening,” said O’Connell.

Wayne Barnes gives Rory Best a yellow card Rory Best spent 10 minutes in the sin bin yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“But it definitely frustrated us. I think discipline is something Joe is big on and the leadership is big on, and I think our penalty count has been excellent in the last 18 months or so.

“So to concede the penalties we did do was frustrating and at times it was hard to figure out. I suppose we did have a little bit of an issue with trying to get access to the clean-out ourselves, whether they weren’t rolling away or were finding it hard to roll away. It’s hard to get through that player that makes the tackle to get in and clean them out.

That was one thing I found that was frustrating, but they’re a big side and good at the breakdown, good at the ruck. We’re good at the ruck as well, so from that point of view it’s a tough game to ref.”

This issue doesn’t simply start and end with Barnes and his interpretation of the scrum, ruck, offside line and the other laws of the game. We can safely say that Schmidt will go about highlighting each avoidable penalty during the video sessions at Ireland camp in Galway over the coming days.

There were certainly instances in which Ireland are right to feel aggrieved, but the moments in which rash decisions saw Ireland penalised will be scrutinised and dissected.

Schmidt’s desire for perfection from his charges extends to every penalty they give up to the opposition, every error of judgement in the area of discipline.

England will not be as forgiving as the French in a fortnight’s time.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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