Six Nations referee apologises as France vs England gets off to embarrassing start | Rugby | Sport

England‘s game against France on the final day of the Six Nations got off to an awkward start thanks to a blunder from referee Angus Gardner. There were no trophies to play for in Lyon, with Ireland wrapping up the title earlier in the day to leave England hunting a second-placed finish.

The stage was set for a pulsating encounter between two of rugby’s greatest rivals, with England out to avenge the heavy defeat they suffered in last year’s edition of the tournament. However, there was an awkward moment just seconds before the start of the match when France kicked off too early.

A countdown was set to take place before the scheduled kick-off time but France full-back Thomas Ramos jumped the gun, sending the ball high into the air 10 seconds too early. Gardner took full responsibility for the error, though, as he called the players back into position for another attempt at starting the match.

“Yeah, sorry,” said Gardner to Ramos. “I said 10 seconds to go. Sorry guys, we’ve got to wait for the time. There’s a countdown timer. We’ve got to wait for the countdown timer and I’ve got to blow my whistle. Wait for the countdown time and we are good to go. Apologies.”

ITV commentator Nick Mullins was less than impressed by the error, urging Gardner to ‘get on with it’ as he poked fun at the situation. He joked: “It’s alright, it’s not live, we can edit that bit out. It’s not a great start. Let’s just get on with it, Angus. Blow your whistle and kick off.”

Gardner is one of the world’s leading referees and took charge of last year’s World Cup semi-final between New Zealand and Argentina. He is no stranger to controversy, though, having been responsible for a huge error in a Bledisloe Cup test between his native Australia and the All Blacks in 2020.

Jordie Barrett’s try for New Zealand was not chalked off despite TV cameras spotting team-mate Reiko Ioane stepping into touch in the build-up. Australia’s players and staff were left furious with Garner’s missed call, with the 39-year-old even going on live radio to apologise for the glaring mistake.

He told Gold AM: “Sometimes it happens at that speed. Obviously I put my hand up for it. We’re there to referee the game whether it’s the All Blacks or the Wallabies or Wellington or Otago or Chiefs versus Crusaders. Our job is just the game, it shouldn’t matter who the two teams are.”

Back in 2018, Gardner admitted that he should have penalised former England captain Owen Farrell for a no-arms tackle during a game against South Africa. England claimed a narrow 12-11 win on that occasion but Gardner later confessed to making the wrong call.

“I think in hindsight now, having discussed it with some other referees, I think the general consensus would be that a penalty was probably the outcome there that should have been given,” he said.

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