The great thing about rugby is that it is forever changing. We are always growing, making better decisions and discovering new solutions. This is true for players, coaches, referees and administrators. Everyone.

As referees, we are often confronted from all angles. It makes it not so easy to always be confident and motivated. The key is listening. If you know how to listen, you may understand others’ perspectives and not become a victim of their thoughts. It’s all in your attitude. Identify the good bits and add it to your development and goals.

What we are here to talk about today,
is a greater solution for the game.

We’ve seen some mighty fine Law clarifications and Law amendments over the years, but mostly it has only provided “band-aids” to larger issues.

We want an amazing product! Guidelines that tell us “This is how we are going to referee the game” plus better Laws application can provide that. Combined with the TACTICAL (PART ONE) and the STRATEGICAL (PART TWO), previously discussed, we can build a stronger community where we share a global vision and a universal goal.

You may ask yourself, why do we need this?

Let’s look at the 6 Nations. Many of the matches have been close, low scoring and painfully dour affairs. In those matches you will find that attacking teams are penalized at the breakdown 50% or more, penalty kick advantage gained is a mere 0 – 15%, and the winning team is on the wrong side of the penalty kick count.

Clarity at the breakdown, more space to play the game in,
positive scrums and proper advantage can produce
the product we want, the product fans want!

 This is how we can make that happen:

  1. Breakdown:
    1. Immediate release by tackler. You think I’m kidding? Every time you see the referee point at the ball or say “release number…”, you know the defense achieved their goal.
    2. Tackler assist to show a distinct space between themselves and the tackled player prior to playing the ball.
      Current Application: There is little differentiation between the tackler assist and the player who happens to have the tackled player land at their feet – both are often allowed to play the ball without showing a clear release/space. They slow ball availability until they are cleaned/cleared out. It slows the game down and allows defenses to set and reduces attacking options. Referees allow too much debate in this area for the sake of “continuity” that negatively affects the game as it opens the door for negotiation. You will find the more room players are allowed, the more they contest for the ball. 
    3. All players (excluding the tackler) to completely enter through the gate:
      1. No part of the body to enter through the side.
      2. Strict policing of the gate and the tackle zone for both the team in possession and defenders.
        Current Application: Defenders are allowed to bring their arms through the side as they move/jump towards their gate. It reduces the opportunity to retain possession. This, and the tackler assist not releasing, often forces the team who is in possession of the ball to enter from the side to retain possession.
    4. Players to stay on their feet. What? Yes!
      1. Players who leave their feet to clear out a tackler who is on the ground should be penalized.
        Current Application: Players are allowed to leave their feet to “remove” a tackler that is on the ground, and it is refereed to form a ruck. By Law both interpretations are incorrect, illegal, and also dangerous. A ruck is formed when opposition players who are on their feet are in contact with each other over the ball. Applying the Law accurately, ensuring the tackler immediately releases and rolls away or gets up, and forcing players to stay on their feet will speed up the game.
      2. Players should not be allowed to collapse a ruck.
        Current Application: Players are allowed to “body roll” (often referred to as the “alligator/crocodile roll”) opposition players which collapses the ruck. Prohibiting the “roll” will keep players on their feet and eliminate foul play neck rolls.
    5. Offside at Rucks
      1. Demanding a clear space between the last line of feet will create more room for the game to be played in.
        Current Application: There is no clear space, often players are a metre or more in front of the last line of feet. You have AR’s – USE THEM!!! (We will discuss this more in PART FOUR) The new trial Law proposal of 1m is not necessary and will be tough to referee. Can’t we just get it right as it is supposed to be?
    6. Illegal defending around the fringes of the ruck (especially close to the goal line).
      1. Players have to grasp to tackle.
        Current Application: Players are allowed to dive low at opponent’s knees and shins without grasping or the possibility to grasp the ball carrier, in order to create a barrier when they defend goal lines.
  2. Low Scrum completion % needs a refined approach:
    1. Ensure shoulders in line – Loosehead inside shoulder should not be tucked under the hooker’s arm/shoulder. Players who set up incorrectly should be strictly dealt with: Manage Once, FK, then PK, then PK and YC.
      Current Application: Players may be instructed to set up correctly before the crouch, but they revert to illegalities thereafter during the bind.
    2. Loosehead to bind long with elbow up facing toward the touchline to ensure stability. This combined with the loosehead’s right shoulder in line creates a square and stable platform. Players who bind short and hang on their opponents with their elbow pointing down should not be tolerated: PK, then PK and YC.
      Current Application: Hanging with the elbow pointing down creates instability and more opportunity for the loosehead to bore in or for the scrum to collapse.
    3. Tighthead to bind long on the body. Binding on the opponent’s arm or armpit to be penalized immediately: PK, PK & YC.
      Current Application: Tightheads are binding short or on the arm, allowing them to twist the loosehead down.
    4. All front rows to be aligned straight. Manage once, FK, PK, PK and YC.
      Current Application: Often props position themselves so they can angle inwards which allow them more opportunity to manipulate and disrupt scrums.
  3. Poor Advantage application reduces momentumapproach:

    1. Referees should decide if there is an opportunity gain advantage.
      Current Application: Referees play advantage on a hope and a prayer. They revert to rookie refereeing, just standing there with their arm out, oblivious to managing the game. How are teams going to gain an advantage if you don’t maintain standards of quick ball availability, space, and so forth. Good Advantage is a skill, not something built on luck. Do your job better!

There’s a bucket load of new Laws being trialed. I think we can achieve a greater and more exciting product by being smarter and creating a universal approach. No more “band-aids” please, just better refereeing and better rugby!

NEXT: PART FOUR – Fame and Infamy of Referees