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Warren Gatland laments Wales’s failure to handle ‘disruptive’ change of referee

Warren Gatland has highlighted his side’s failure to deal with the “disruptive” change of referee in his side’s World Cup quarter-final defeat by Argentina and suggested the wrong decision was made when Guido Petti escaped any sanction for a shoulder charge on Nick Tompkins.

Wales scored the opening try through Dan Biggar after an impressive start to the match but on 15 minutes the South African referee, Jaco Peyper, pulled up with a calf injury and was replaced by Karl Dickson of England, who was acting as an assistant referee.

Argentina reach World Cup semi-final after fighting back to defeat WalesRead more

Gatland’s side went on to extend their lead to 10-0 but conceded two penalties to Emiliano Boffelli before the break and another two soon after to trail by two points. Tomos Williams’s sniping try put Wales back ahead but a close-range try from the replacement prop Joel Sclavi and an intercept score by Nicolás Sánchez sealed the Pumas’ place in the last four.

Shortly before Sclavi’s try, Petti charged into a ruck and made contact with Tompkins’ head but Dickson, in consultation with the TMO, Marius Jonker, ruled that the Argentina lock was effecting a legal action but made contact with Tompkins’s head because the Wales centre’s height had dramatically dropped and as a result decided to take no action.

“It would be interesting to see what happens in terms of the feedback from the panel,” said Gatland. “I think it’s at least a penalty situation and we felt Dillon Lewis was on the ball for a significant amount of time before they scored their try. It’s just the way it is.”

Of Peyper’s withdrawal, Gatland, whose side conceded 12 penalties to Argentina’s seven, added: “It probably didn’t help with the referee getting injured. That was a little bit disruptive. We were 10-0 up but unfortunately we’ve given away a couple of soft penalties. We talked about discipline but that allowed them to stay in the game.

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The replacement referee, Karl Dickson, talks to Wales's Jac MorganKarl Dickson after replacing the injured Jaco Peyper as referee early in Wales’s quarter-final against Argentina. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho/Shutterstock

“It does throw you off, we were comfortable with Jaco Peyper and the relationship we had with him in terms of his control of the game. It’s nothing against Karl but you do a lot of analysis in terms of what refs are tough on, what they’re looking for. We hadn’t prepared for the change but sometimes it happens during the game and you just have to deal with it.”

Gatland also reaffirmed his commitment to the Wales job amid suggestions he has a break clause in his contract. The 60-year-old was reappointed through to the 2027 World Cup last December and after his second quarter-final elimination as Wales coach – he has also reached the semi-finals twice – he said: “Is this like an Eddie Jones question? I’m not actually sure what’s in my contract. I think there’s a break clause from the union but I’ve not actually read it. Yeah, absolutely [I’m committed to taking Wales forward]. If the union want to get rid of me, that’s up to them.

“Obviously, we’re incredibly disappointed but I don’t want to take anything from Argentina in terms of their performance. They are a tough team to put away and they hung in there with incredible fight.”

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Argentina, meanwhile, take their place in Friday’s semi-final in Paris, becoming the first side to do so. They began their campaign with a disastrous defeat by England, who had Tom Curry sent off inside the first three minutes, but have won their four subsequent matches and are building momentum nicely.

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“I don’t think it’s a turnaround, In these tournaments you learn,” said the head coach, Michael Cheika, after guiding Argentina into the last four for the first time in eight years.

“I felt like we had a light prep and we knew that the first game [against England] would be a bit rough for us. There were a lot of [players playing in their first World Cup]. We learned a lot around handling knockout footie in the one game that wasn’t a knockout.”