Rugby World Cup 2011: IRB backs Hook penalty decision

James Hook
Hook launches the 'penalty that never was'

Rugby World Cup organisers have backed the match officials who disallowed a disputed James Hook penalty in Wales' 17-16 defeat by South Africa.

Wales were adamant the 14th-minute kick was inside the posts but the assistant referees kept their flags down.

Referee Wayne Barnes could then have consulted the television match official, but elected not to.

Tournament organisers said: "Correct protocol was followed. The IRB will not be making further comment."

Hook thought his attempt had passed inside the right-hand upright but assistant referees Vinny Munro from New Zealand and Ireland's George Clancy kept their flags down, ruling the ball had drifted to the right of the posts, looking from the direction of the kicker, before swinging back in after passing the woodwork.

English referee Barnes could have discussed the matter with television match official (TMO) Matt Goddard but chose to trust the judgement of his two on-field colleagues.

However, the International Rugby Board insisted no mistakes had been made. Their full statement read: "Rugby World Cup Limited has clarified the status of the television match official protocol following the Pool D match between South Africa and Wales.

"Under protocol, the referee may consult the assistant referees or the television match official if he is unsure as to whether a penalty kick, drop-goal or conversion has been successful.

"During the match in question, the match official team felt at the time that there was no need to consult the TMO following a Wales penalty kick, as they were confident that the kick was not successful."

Wales' next game is against Samoa on Sunday and defeat could result in their early exit from the tournament.

Barnes, 37, became the youngest member of England's panel of national referees at the age of just 21.

He was involved in controversy at the 2007 World Cup though, when he failed to spot an apparent forward pass that led to France's match-winning try against New Zealand in the quarter-finals.