The International Rugby Board has made the startling admission that officials erred in denying the Wallabies a replacement last weekend in a Test they finished with 14 men.
Despite an earlier ruling against him, the board has declared Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was, in fact, correct in trying to replace Tatafu Polota-Nau with Saia Fainga'a in the match, which saw the Springboks score a try in the dying minutes of their 31-8 win in South Africa.
An IRB spokesman said yesterday that referee, Alain Rolland, had been right to prevent the substitution.
But the governing body then issued the findings to a review, which concluded that Rolland and his officials had made an embarrassing mistake.
“The area of substitution management is a team effort,” said IRB match official selection committee chairman John Jeffrey in a released statement. “This was an unfortunate case of human error by the match official team, who fully recognise and accept that they made a mistake in the application of the substitution law.”
The Wallabies management will have every right to feel furious at the ruling, as the Springboks scored their last try, to Bryan Habana, with the Wallabies playing, unfairly, short a man. The try blew out the scoreline to 31-8.
The Wallabies' policy of replacing loose-head prop Benn Robinson at the half-hour mark and returning him to the field later in the match has raised some eyebrows, but the IRB has accepted that Ben Alexander was injured during the match, thereby freeing up one substitution that the Wallabies tried to use when Polota-Nau was forced from the field.