Ireland and Ulster hooker, Rory Best, has exonerated Matthew Rees of blame for Wales’ ‘ballgate’ victory against Ireland in the 2011 Six Nations by claiming the rules are only a “loose guide” to be followed.
The Irish were fuming after officials failed to spot that Rees had taken an unlawful quick line-out - he had used a different ball that had also been handed to him by a ball boy - from which scrum-half Mike Phillips scored the crucial try.
It was a defining moment that helped Wales to a 19-13 victory and tomorrow Ireland will return to the Millennium Stadium for the first time since that controversial defeat.
Rees has stated that he would not hesitate to take the same action again and Best - his opposite number in the championship opener in Cardiff - sympathises.
“You take a win, no matter what. The way that rule was bent slightly with the quick throw-in was no different to opensides cheating at the breakdown,” he said.
“The laws are there to be pushed and referees are there to make sure they’re not pushed too far.
“If we’d have scored that try we’d have taken the five points. It’s up to the officials to pick that up.
“We want to win and the laws are there, I suppose, as bit of a loose guide for the players to follow.
“There’s no doubt we’ve learned a few lessons from that - if you switch off you concede points, whether it’s three or five.
“Hopefully those lessons are behind us now and this is a fresh start and none of that gamesmanship will be able to take place during this Six Nations,” he added.
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