Don’t know about you, but I was pretty dumb-founded the Wallabies management out subbing themselves in Pretoria, effectively self inflicting a second yellow card as they played the last 10 minutes with 14 men (and even fewer at times as players continued to hit the grass).
Well, here’s how someone who knows what they’re talking about explained it in an email to me -
The Wallaby coaches and management let the players down last night in relation to the substitutions for two reasons:
1. Law 3.12 says that if a player is substituted they cannot come back on except in the case of a front rower where they may replace another front rower who is injured or temporarily suspended. This exception is in place to avoid uncontested scrums.
In recent matches the Wallabies have rotated Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander. When Robinson comes back on, Alexander doesn’t even feign injury. The Wallabies coaches obviously read the laws and despite being against the spirit of the law they decided it would be a clever move.
To breach the spirit of the law like that brings the game in to disrepute but last night that decision came back to bite them and more importantly the remaining 14 players on the field.
2. The Wallaby coaches obviously considered the Laws before implementing this rotation policy but failed to understand the Laws well enough to prevent the debacle last night. The laws relating to this incident are:
3.9 The referee has the power to stop a player continuing on – as he did with TPN.
3.4 A team can replace two front row players and five other players – which is where the seven replacements comes from. However 3.12 also applies in regards to front row players.
3.12 Provides an exception for front row players who have been replaced coming back on to replace another front rower.
Exception 2: a substituted player may replace a front row player when injured, temporarily suspended or sent off unless the referee has ordered uncontested scrums prior to the event which led to the front row player leaving the field of play and the team has used all the permitted replacements and substitutions.
The word ‘and’ means that both of the conditions must be in place before the referee can stop a substituted player coming back on to the field. The uncontested scrums condition had not been satisfied when the Wallabies attempted to bring Faingaa on.
Did the Wallabies have a substituted player available to replace TPN? Yes, Ben Alexander who wasn’t injured. The referee was right to stop Faingaa coming on but couldn’t have prevented Alexander coming on. It is not the job of the referee to give the Wallabies options – he is only there to apply the Laws. Once he announced that scrums would be uncontested it was too late to then try and bring Alexander on.
Did the Wallabies coaches and management know the rules or did they think the referee wouldn’t know the rules or would not pay attention? It was the Wallaby coaches decisions that caused the team to have to play with only 14 players. Sure, Robinson would still have had to throw the lineouts but having 15 on the field would have had helped.
The Wallaby coaches and management failed the players and at international level that is unacceptable.