Back in the day when I first started playing rugby, before the internet was invented and television slow motion replays in sport were in their infancy, my first club coach used to repeat this mantra: “the referee is always right, especially when he’s wrong.” 

I don’t want to go back to those days. I have welcomed the development in rugby of television match officials and the close scrutiny of decisions, and particularly the detection of foul play when it has been missed by the referee.  The reason for that is simple – I believe that justice must be done, especially if it contributes to player safety. Okay, only the top professional level can afford TMOs and televised replays, but the fact that there’s money and careers at stake means justice must be done.  

Yesterday afternoon I heard the frankly sickening news that Owen Farrell, sent off against Wales for bashing the head of Taine Basham with his shoulder, had successfully had his red card overturned and was therefore free to play in England’s remaining warm-up matches against Ireland and Fiji and then their World Cup Pool D matches which begin with a mouth-watering encounter against Argentina in Marseille on September 9. 

With his previous record, Farrell was looking at a three to six game ban, probably the latter, but now in a disgraceful decision which demeans the sport, for the record books he will have the red card downgraded to the original yellow. 

The decision was made by an independent tribunal who issued a statement in which they were at pains to give Farrell mitigation and cited the last minute shove on Basham by England hooker Jamie George as being a sufficient “late change in dynamics” that “brought about a sudden and significant change in direction from the ball carrier”.         

I have only one word to say to that assertion and it rhymes with rowlocks. Farrell was at best reckless and at worst his usual nasty self – look at the replay and spot his eyes fixed on Basham as he shoulders in. 

The panel of Adam Casselden, John Langford and David Croft  were all from Australia so that got me wondering. Farrell at 31 is not the player he was, and frankly England are not as good with him on the pitch, so with the Wallabies possibly meeting England in the last 16, why not make sure they are carrying a liability? 

I am not suggesting the tribunal thought that way, but if World Rugby doesn’t appeal against their decision then I will be forced to conclude that something underhand has taken place in the process. 

The only laugh I got was when George Ford was interviewed by Radio Five live and said: “It’s great for us in terms of having our captain and leader back in, and getting away with…” at which point he realised what he was saying and stopped for a breath before continuing “obviously going through the process and cracking on as normal.”

Farrell has got away with it and I’ll bet the spineless creatures at World Rugby – chairman Sir Bill Beaumont - would rather that mighty England be not offended than send the proper message that literal headbangers like Farrell cannot carry on regardless. All the protestations that rugby union is doing its best to cut out dangerous play has been proven to be so much guff.  

Zander Fagerson’s red card was deserved but so was Farrell’s, and it just proves to me that the RFU has the better lawyers.

I am waiting for the final warm-up matches before I give my verdict on the refereeing I’ve seen recently, but suffice to say I’m not impressed.

What I have been mightily impressed with has been Scotland’s performances in the Summer Nations series.  I wrote before the first match against France at Murrayfield “I fully expect Scotland to lose on aggregate over the two games. Running France in any way close will be an achievement, one that can be built on before September.”

My apologies to Gregor Townsend and the squad as of course Scotland beat France 52-51 on aggregate. Saturday’s performance against France’s best 23 was colossal, and nobody, not even Ireland and the Springboks, will be taking Scotland lightly in the World Cup.

Townsend will name his final 33-man squad later today, and I don’t expect any great surprises.  I suspect Jamie Dobie, Ewan Ashman, Murphy Walker and Luke Crosbie will be the unlucky quartet to miss out, but as I previously wrote, those players who do not make it into the 33 should keep their passports ready as there may well be injuries in France and replacements can be called in.

Meanwhile I must congratulate the SRU on its decision to award retrospective caps to men and women players who represented Scotland in the past but did not get a cap, usually because the blazerati at Murrayfield did not rate the opposition highly enough. A long overdue decision, and manifestly the correct one.