there may be trouble ahead

Analysis: Joubert's refereeing of Welsh scrum doesn't bode well for Romania clash

Craig Joubert made some questionable calls at scrum time.

WHILE IRELAND WILL be expected to navigate past Romania in the World Cup, they’ll need to have their wits about them at scrumtime, with the eastern Europeans owning a remarkably destructive setpiece which has been the foundation of their rise.

But as often happens with scrums as troublesome as theirs, they can often bend the rules in search of penalties, and it’s an aspect that we’ll be looking into extensively in the build-up to the meeting of the sides on September 27.

As he was yesterday at the Aviva, Craig Joubert will be the man with the whistle on that day in Wembley, but his interpretation of the scrum in Ireland’s defeat to Wales is sure to be a worry for Irish fans.

The stats didn’t paint a pretty picture for scrum coach Greg Feek yesterday, but there’s no doubt that when they peel away the top layer and explore them in depth, he can be reasonably pleased with what he saw.

Trouble from all angles

The first scrum saw Wales awarded a penalty, after Craig Joubert penalised McGrath for wheeling, and while the Irish loosehead was guilty, it looks like his hand was forced from an angled drive from Gethin Jenkins.

In the Gif below, we can see how McGrath takes several steps t the left to try halt the Welsh momentum, but it’s easily spotted by Joubert.

1 - McGrath stepping

But when we pause it, we can see just why McGrath was moving sideways.

Note how he, Richardt Strauss and Nathan White are all facing the same direction, driving straight up the pitch, while Gethin Jenkins is angled across the body of White.

1 Jenkins angle

It’s difficult to lay too much blame on Joubert for the call. He was watching McGrath’s side of the scrum, so naturally, his was the offence that was spotted first.

Unsurprisingly, when Joubert moved to the other side of the scrum for the next set down, things were far more stable.

2 stable GIF

McGrath shows his class

Should Cian Healy not be fit enough for Ireland’s opening two games of the World Cup, Joe Schmidt and Greg Feek will be quite reassured with their loosehead options, especially after seeing Jack McGrath’s contribution in the minutes before Iain Henderson’s try.

It was mainly down to his height, as he drove lower to the ground than Wales’ Tommy Francis (who had an otherwise excellent game on his debut).

If we look at the pair as the ball is fed, we can see how McGrath is slightly lower than Francis, and we can also see how McGrath’s back is perfectly straight, while Francis has a slight curve in his, reducing his power.

5 McGrath good

Once McGrath begins to drive, Francis’ poor body positioning is only exaggerated.

5 McGrath 2

Eventually, Francis wheels the scrum around to stop going backwards, and Joubert awards Ireland the penalty.


Ireland had just three put ins to the scrum all day, and the coaching staff will be pretty pleased with all three; very stable, and quickly in and out, two of which came just after half time.

Clear as day

But the introduction of Paul James for Gethin Jenkins saw the scrum get even messier, and it culminated with Joubert’s worst call of the day.

After Ireland knocked on over the line, Wales had the put in to the scrum just five metres out, and as we can see in the still below, all seems normal, with Nathan White and Paul James square and straight to each other.

7 initial

However, as soon as the ball is fed, James pops his backside out of the scrum, and blatantly drives straight across the body of White.

7 James

And when we watch it roll through as a Gif, we can see the impact this has on the scrum, as James moves perpendicular to his opponent.

7 7 GOF

While Joubert had a laissez faire attitude to angles, wheeling was something he clamped down on heavily.

He awarded Wales a penalty on that scrum for an Irish wheel, but another look will show that it was the Welsh who whipped the scrum around.

As we can see below, the axis of the scrum is the line running along the 5m, with Ireland having moved forward through the axis.

Jack McGrath got a very strong drive forward, moving the scrum ahead on his side, and we can see that none of the Welsh forwards have advanced past the point of the scrum.

If anybody had wheeled the scrum, it certainly wasn’t Ireland.

7 axis

The problem with referees being so reluctant to penalise angled drives is that they’re incredibly easy to spot.

There was another example late in the game as James completely collapsed the set piece, and again it went unpunished.

As usual, for perspective, we can see how James and Tadhg Furlong are square and straight as the ball is being fed.

9 initial

However, once the ball is fed, James again turns his body inside, and collapses the scrum into a heap on the ground.


Hopefully just like the teams at the Aviva yesterday, Mr Joubert was just blowing off the cobwebs before the real show begins next month.

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