HK in referee dilemma for Tunisia clash

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am

Worried Hong Kong officials will have urgent discussions with their counterparts in Tunisia over the ability of the referee for the return game in Tunis on Saturday.

'We are not sure who will be appointed for the game, but all we want is to make sure that he is qualified and part of their international panel of referees,' said Ivan Torpey, head of performance with the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union.

Hong Kong won an ill-tempered home game 25-12 last Saturday. The first-ever meeting between the two sides was marred by four red cards - handed to three Tunisians and Hong Kong hooker Wayne Whitney.

Torpey revealed that reciprocal arrangements would most certainly result in the Tunisian Rugby Union appointing its officials for the return game.

'I won't be surprised if that is the case,' replied Torpey (pictured) when asked if a Tunisian referee and touch judges would be in charge.

'But we will be making some inquiries and having discussions with Tunisia in the next 48 hours about the person's ability.'

The HKRFU will have little ground to stand on. Instead of appointing a neutral referee, it decided to give 'exposure to locals' in last Saturday's game, an official test match sanctioned by the International Rugby Board.

The Tunisian team were incensed by decisions made by Steve Foley and his linesmen, and although their South African coach, Daniel de Villiers, was diplomatic afterwards, he was heard shouting angrily in their direction during the game.

De Villiers pointed an accusing finger at the referee, and said afterwards that 'the way things were being interpreted on the field helped create this situation', referring to the running battles between players in the second half.

All four red-carded players will miss the return clash after receiving suspensions ranging from two to four weeks.

Tunisia will be without their captain and centre Amor Mazgar, influential No 8 and vice-captain Mohamed Ben Hmida and prop Mohamed Ali Kochief. Hong Kong will replace hooker Whitney with Jon Abel.

But Whitney is still part of the 29-strong travelling party as the trip is part of Hong Kong's build-up to the Asian Five Nations, which kicks off later this month.

'It was very important for all the players to go as this is all about the Asian Five Nations,' Torpey said. 'They will have one week of training away in an environment which is focused solely on rugby. That will make a difference.'