Warren Gatland admits change of referee did not help Wales in Argentina loss

By Sports Desk October 14, 2023

Warren Gatland felt the change in referee knocked Wales off their stride as they crashed out of the World Cup with a 29-17 quarter-final defeat to Argentina in Marseille.

South African official Jaco Peyper hobbled off with a calf injury after Wales had scored their first try in the 15th minute, taking a 7-0 lead in a match they had dominated.

But with Karl Dickson replacing Peyper their ascendency slipped away and Argentina came on strong in the second half with tries from Joel Sclavi and Nicolas Sanchez sweeping them into the last four.

Head coach Gatland was full of praise for the Pumas’ performance but also felt events had conspired against Wales.

“It probably didn’t help with the referee getting injured. That was a little bit disruptive in terms of the game,” said Gatland, who confirmed his commitment to remaining in charge of Wales until the 2027 World Cup.

“We were 10-0 up and were thinking that if we take a few of the opportunities that were presented to us. Unfortunately we gave away a couple of soft penalties.

“It does throw you off. We were comfortable with Jaco Peyper and the relationship we have with him in terms of his control of the game.

“It’s nothing against Karl but you do a lot of analysis through what referees tend to be tough on and what they are looking for.

“We hadn’t prepared for the change. Sometimes that happens in a game and you just have to deal with it. That is the way Test match rugby goes sometimes.”

A controversial refereeing decision saw Guido Petti hit Nick Tompkins in the head with his shoulder in the third quarter but Dickson and TMO Marius Jonker ruled there was no foul play.

It was explained that because the tackle had been called, Tompkins was falling and Petti entered legally while bent at the waist, there was no offence. Argentina went over from the same period of play to stretch their lead.

“It would be interesting to see what happens in terms of the feedback from the panel,” Gatland said.

“He (Dickson) felt that Nick has dropped his height and he said it wasn’t foul play. I would need to go back and look at it, but it was probably at least a penalty situation.

“Sometimes those things happen in a game in big moments and can swing things. That is just the way it is.”

Dan Biggar’s final match for Wales ended in disappointment with the fly-half eventually departing in the second half having taken a bang to the chest early on, possibly exacerbating a pectoral muscle injury he had been carrying.

“Dan has been a great servant for Welsh rugby. He has been through some incredible highs and some lows as well. To see him come into the side and mature and develop as a player, that has been pretty special,” Gatland said.

Argentina were transformed from the team routed 27-10 by 14-man England in their group opener and head coach Michael Cheika insisted the lessons of that defeat had been learned.

“We knew that first game would be rough for us and we learned a lot from it because we had a lot of World Cup first timers,” Cheika said.

“There hasn’t been a radical turnaround, we’ve just built from what we’ve learned. The progress hasn’t been lineal, but all that work we put in as a foundation has paid off.

“We’re starting to get a bit of flow and one thing this team has always had is lots of flow. We just didn’t handle the occasion against England well.”

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