'Don't like the law': Rugby league's answer to massive rugby problem

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Nick Tompkins (pictured) knocks the ball back and runs away to score against Australia.
Australia was left ruing the TMO decision not to call this a knockdown or a knock-on as Wales centre Nick Tompkins (pictured) went on to score. (Images: Amazon Prime)

Is it time to throw the knockdown law out of rugby union and issue a 'passer beware' warning to the ball carrier?

Australia's controversial one-point loss to Wales on the weekend has brought the contentious law to the surface again as fans in both hemispheres trade online blows.

The Wallabies lost Kurtley Beale to the sin bin for an alleged deliberate knockdown in the first half, reducing them to 13 men for 10 minutes after the earlier red card for Rob Valetini's high shot.

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Yet an almost identical situation in the second half occurred which resulted in a try to Wales centre Nick Tompkins being allowed to stand, despite just about every player – and those watching – expecting a knock-on call.

The Television Match Official (TMO) Marius Jonker and on-field referee Mike Adamson instead ruled the ball had been knocked back, therefore negating the knockdown offence.

That one is still sinking in.

But why is the knockdown law in the game in the first place?

It was written in to encourage positive play over negative but, as we saw in Cardiff, is now regularly bogged down in the minutiae of whether a player intentionally knocked the ball down or was attempting to make a tackle.

Please tell us what's positive about watching 63 replays and holding an already stop-start game up for a further five minutes.

If former international referee Peter Marshall had his way, the knockdown law would be the first to be abolished from the rule book.

"I don’t agree with the philosophy. I don't like the law at all," he told Yahoo Sport Australia.

Referee Mike Adamson (pictured middle) hands Kurtley Beale a yellow card.
Kurtley Beale is yellow carded by referee Mike Adamson during the Autumn Nations Series match between Wales and Australia at Principality Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

"I'm a bit more down the rugby league path where it's judged good defence by being able to knock the ball down.

"The player with the ball should be able to get rid of the ball before the defender interferes with it.

"He's trying to do something positive by stopping the try.

"The poor bugger who goes for the intercept and doesn't regather not only cops a penalty but goes to the bin as well.

"We used to have some great inceptors but that's just taken out of their game now.

"I say go for your life. Do anything except foul play to stop a try."

Former official baffled over World Rugby referee stance

Sydneysider Marshall, who controlled 28 Tests between 1993-2003, is increasingly disillusioned over the TMO's constant interference.

He believes referees are losing the feel for a game.

Talking about the Tompkins incident, Marshall said: "In my day, if 30 players thought it was a knock on then you'd rule a knock on.

"That's what I reckon happened in that situation.

"If he'd blown his whistle straight away, no-one would have questioned it.

"Even the player that's scored the try has gone 'I don’t think it’s going to be a try'.

"There were no celebrations under the posts….he knew it was likely to be pulled back.

"That's the way we used to rule. We definitely looked at reaction and body language of players."

The body language of frustrated and infuriated fans would suggest World Rugby has a crisis on its hands.

The game is being strangled to death by its own laws.

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