Scotland's captain Greig Laidlaw, left, points as SA referee Craig Joubert, right, runs off the pitch (AP)
London - Top former Australian rugby players and officials on Saturday accused World Rugby of opening a "Pandora's Box" by declaring a World Cup referee was wrong to give a match-winning penalty to the Wallabies.
The seven figures, including 1991 World Cup winning flanker Simon Poidevin and two former Australian Rugby Union president Phil Harry and Ron Graham, said the governing body had failed referees.
Their letter to The Times newspaper added to the stormy debate since World Rugby's pronouncement that Craig Joubert had been wrong to give a penalty to Australia in the last minute of the quarter-final against Scotland last Sunday.
"We are astonished that World Rugby has chosen to publish a still heavily contested finding with regard to one decision out of the many controversial decisions in this Rugby World Cup, some of them turning the results of matches," they wrote.
"World Rugby has failed to back the letter and the spirit of the rule declaring that the referee is the sole judge of the game.
"We may never learn the nature of the unusual pressure to which World Rugby has succumbed in taking such a precipitous step, but we are aghast at the Pandora's Box this procedure has opened up for the future of the game."
South African Joubert - who refereed the 2011 World Cup final -- was lambasted for his decision to award a penalty and not a scrum in the final minute of the last eight game with Scotland leading 34-32.
Aussie kicker Bernard Foley converted the penalty to seal a 35-34 win and a date with Argentina at Twickenham on Sunday.
Joubert ran off the pitch without the traditional shaking of hands with players. A bottle was reportedly thrown at him as he went down the tunnel.
Wallaby coach Michael Cheika laid into the decision to publish the decision by the referee committee, saying it contravened the basic principles of the sport and effectively hung 37-year-old Joubert out to dry