Cape Town - Former England coach Clive Woodward has leapt to the defence of South African referee Jaco Peyper who caused an uproar after posing in an "inappropriate" picture with Wales fans following their Rugby World Cup quarter-final win over France at the weekend.
In the picture, Peyper appeared to mimic the elbow that led to France lock Sebastien Vahaamahina's red card.
"I support Jaco Peyper 100 percent in having a little fun with Welsh supporters on Sunday night," Woodward wrote via a column for the Daily Mail.
"It's ludicrous that the so-called incident is being investigated in any way and for those in the French camp kicking off I would say you have infinitely more serious things to be considering. Such as your shambolic coaching and persistent ill-discipline on the pitch which for decades now has seen France under-perform."
Peyper has since apologised for his actions but it was not quite enough for him to be considered for action this weekend.
The referee dismissed the French lock in Oita last Sunday after video replays showed him smashing his elbow into the face of Welsh flanker Aaron Wainwright early in the second half.
The French were leading 19-10 at the time, before going on to lose 20-19.
Woodward, who won the 2003 World Cup as England coach, added that any referee would have sent off Vahaamahina.
"There is zero controversy or intrigue here, the French lock got precisely what he deserved. Jaco Peyper was out relaxing after a huge game and the day a referee cannot enjoy a beer and a joke with either the players or fans is the day rugby has lost its way."
World Rugby went on to announce that Frenchman Jerome Garces would referee Sunday's Rugby World Cup semi-final between South Africa and Wales in Yokohama.
Garces will be assisted by England's Wayne Barnes and New Zealand's Ben O'Keeffe, with another Kiwi, Ben Skeen, the television match official (TMO).
In the other semi-final between New Zealand and England in Yokohama on Saturday (10:00 SA time), Welshman Nigel Owens will be the referee.
Owens will be assisted by French duo Romain Poite and Pascal Gauzere, with South Africa's Marius Jonker as TMO.
The global governing body said the selection was "based on merit after a review of performances” by its match officials selection committee.
- Compiled by Herman Mostert
Jaco Peyper dans un bel hommage à Vahaamahina. Photo de Fabien Heuzé pic.twitter.com/g5vo93413s— Arnaud Coudry (@ArnaudCoudry) October 20, 2019