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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 November, 2003, 09:14 GMT
No regrets for referee Watson
Referee Andre Watson oversees a scrum during the World Cup final
Watson penalised England's front row four times in the final
Referee Andre Watson has defended the controversial penalty decision which could have cost England victory against Australia in the World Cup final.

Watson penalised the England front row for not engaging at a scrum, allowing Elton Flatley to level the scores in the last minute of normal time.

England recovered to snatch glory with Jonny Wilkinson's extra-time drop goal.

"I have no regrets, and I would risk my mortgage that the penalty decision was the right one," insisted Watson.

"If it's the first minute of a club match or the last minute of a tight World Cup final, this is a penalty."

Watson gave four penalties in the final against an England front row which had not been penalised previously during the tournament.

Explaining the 79th-minute penalty, he said he had warned both front rows to "sort out the binding" and, after the scrum collapsed again, warned England's Trevor Woodman.

I know that I would have been ridiculed in England if they had not won
Referee Andre Watson

He then awarded a penalty against Woodman for failing to engage.

"The Australian number three was driving into a vacuum and could have been badly injured. It's unsafe, a penalty every time.

"He refused to form a scrum after being spoken to. What's the argument?" Watson told the Independent on Sunday newspaper.

England coach Clive Woodward has dismissed reports that he planned to write to the International Rugby Board to complain about Watson.

The South African has been refereeing Test matches since 1996 and presided over the last two World Cup finals.

And he shrugged off the controversy surrounding his performance by insisting it was one of the most enjoyable games he had refereed - and praising England.

"I tell you what, they were a pleasure to referee, as were Australia," said Watson.

"As for their style, they are certainly not boring. England play total rugby, not netball.

"Along with France they had the dominant pack of the tournament, they are well-disciplined, they have a good leader in Martin Johnson and all the 50-50 calls during the game were accepted with grace and dignity.

"I do not have a problem with England. What they do is nothing new to the game, but they play to their strengths and have no weaknesses."

He added: "This whole England side are a credit to the sport. They are worthy world champions."





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