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If Rugby World Cup coaches lie awake in the darkest watches of the night, amid a turmoil of bedclothes, it might be because of a single nagging fear which presses on their restive minds.
These aren’t the anxieties which make most people wakeful – intangible concerns about an important matter overlooked or a vital task left undone.
In general, Rugby World Cup coaches rest easy that their campaigns are the result of meticulous planning over a number of years in which nothing has been left undone. They have been able to choose the 31 best available players their countries can provide to take on the task of winning the title: they have at their disposal vast amounts of data and analysis on the strengths and weaknesses of prospective opponents.
Yet, still they stir and their slumbers are disturbed by the echo of shrill whistles and by flashing colors, red and yellow.
Their own planning has left nothing to chance but a major factor outside their control – refereeing – troubled coaches before the tournament began, and has grown in magnitude through the first two weeks.
As the World Cup approached there were fears of the potential effect on the tournament of the hard line officiating which has become the norm in international rugby. High tackles or even accidental contact with the head has been been treated with zero tolerance.
Many commentators and some coaches worried that if referees applied the same standard throughout the World Cup the tournament might see an unprecedented flurry of red and yellow cards. Yet in the initial group-stage matches it seemed referees were taking an unusually light hand as a number of incidents which would typically result in
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