A wise man once told me ‘there should be no difference between theory and practice but in practice there often is’. I remain grateful to my late friend and mentor, the journalist and lecturer Dougie Middleton, for that observation which has stayed with me even ten years after his death. 

Dougie was a rugby man through and through and I suspect that if he was still with us, he would be shaking his head in dismay at what our sport has become, especially the dog’s dinner that has been made of the laws and refereeing. Witness the weekend’s events at the World Cup in France. 

Just one round of matches gone and already the bungling blazerati of World Rugby are looking like complete and utter prats, most notably because of their so-called bunker review process. Like many others I had hoped the system would catch the perpetrators of foul play and deal with them correctly. Instead, it has been exposed as a farce, not because the theory is wrong but because the practice has been implemented ludicrously at times.

In theory, a second review of possible foul play should work, but in practice, it’s been a farrago of nonsense with referees reluctant to issue immediate red cards because they know the bunker can upgrade from yellow.

Several of the supposedly elite match officials have been exposed as incompetents while others have displayed tendencies that I can only describe as craven. Above all there has been an inconsistency in the application of the laws that borders on the criminal. 

The obvious ‘for instance’ are the cases of Tom Curry of England and Jesse Kriel of South Africa. The whole watching world saw that after just three minutes, Curry incorrectly tackled Juan Mallia of Argentina and dunted him with his head. Yellow card applied, then upgraded to red in the bunker. Not many complaints about that, though as I write, we are still waiting on the disciplinary process to decide the outcome – and I remind you England have the best lawyers around. England’s 14 men then produced a very impressive performance while Argentine were dross, so you could argue the red card didn’t make a difference.

Just two minutes into the Scotland v South Africa match, and Kriel commits an almost exactly similar head hit on Jack Dempsey. It was clear and obvious and Kriel should have had at least a yellow card which any sensible foul play review official would have upgraded to red. 

That blithering idiot Rassie ‘traffic lights’ Erasmus, the Sprinboks’ director of rugby, even claimed there was no direct head-on-head contact by Kriel. We already knew the vainglorious blaggard Erasmus was blinded by bias but now he is exposed as a total fool, denying the bleedin’ obvious. 

Kriel went in to stop Dempsey – not tackle, just stop – and with his head up he battered Dempsey with his own head. It was a head-on-head hit, no mitigation, and as John Barclay said in the commentary “it was a red card – the way the game is refereed now, that is a red card”. Yet neither referee Angus Gardner from Australia  – a former world rugby referee of the year – nor his on-field assistants nor TMO Ben Whitehouse of Wales picked up on the head hit. It wasn’t even a penalty, they said, and their joint decision not to review was rightly called ‘inexcusable’ by Barclay, especially in the light of the Curry red card.

I would say it is a lot worse than that. Remember that World Rugby pays their wages and no doubt they would like to officiate at a World Cup final – their teams won’t be there - so with just a couple of minutes gone are they going to send off one of the World Champions? No chance, not least because World Rugby need South Africa involved in the later stages of the tournament to justify the fees paid to them by the broadcasters. 

Yet again Scotland suffered from poor officiating at the World Cup finals, not least because Kriel went on to have a superb game, and for my money was the real man of the match. Oh, and to show I am not biased against South Africa, Erasmus’s clever use of his ‘traffic light’ system of communication is perfectly within the rules.

Scotland against 14 men for 70-odd minutes might still have produced the same result, but perhaps not, so there is every reason to wonder why the laws were applied so inconsistently to the demerit of Scotland.

In general, the first matches showed us that the finals are progressing the way most people thought. I tipped France to beat the All Blacks and I now have no reason to change my view they will win the tounament.  Ireland were eventually awesome and we have a huge task against them.

The most pleasing sight of the weekend was the headbutting sidelined Owen Farrell grinding his back teeth as his replacement George Ford kicked 14-man England to victory. 

World Rugby eventually got it right about Farrell. Is it too much to ask the governing body to sort out refereeing and the bunker system before the sport is reduced to a laughing stock?