Thursday, 30 December 2010

Urban Myth No 2. "He has to let him up".

"How often do we hear this?

Loose ball, defender goes to ground to gather it.  Attacker arrives over the defender and everyone shouts "he has to let him up".  Usually the attacker obliges by waiting for the defender to get to his feet before tackling him and putting him straight back onto the floor.  But does he need to?

The simple answer is no.  The phrase "he has to let him up" isn't mentioned anywhere in the 'Laws of the Game'.  A better phrase to shout might be "play the ball".

Let's look at what the law actually says:


(a) A player with the ball must immediately do one of three things:
• Get up with the ball
• Pass the ball
• Release the ball.
Sanction: Penalty kick

(a) Falling over the player on the ground with the ball. A player must not intentionally fall on
or over a player with the ball who is lying on the ground.
Sanction: Penalty kick

So what does that mean exactly?  Well the clue is in the definition at the front of the law and specifically one phrase:

The Game is to be played by players who are on their feet. A player must not
make the ball unplayable by falling down. Unplayable means that the ball is not
immediately available to either team so that play may continue.

So the player who goes to ground must do one of three things "immediately".  Get up, pass, or release the ball.  If an opposition player arrives, who is on his feet, the ball must be immediately available to him if he wants it, providing he stays on his feet.

So the player on the floor has three options, but if a player on his feet wants the ball he MUST release the ball to that player.  His options evaporate at that time, "the man on his feet is king".

There is no obligation for the arriving player to let him, up, only to stay on his feet and play the ball.  The man who is off his feet must then release it, immediately.

Urban Myth No 2...........Busted!

Urban Myth No 1. "They can't take a quick one ref".

How often does The Rugby Ref hear this?

It usually goes along these lines.  The Rugby Ref gives a penalty for some infringement or another.  The defenders do something that causes The Rugby Ref to advance the mark for the penalty forward 10m; usually kicking the ball away to prevent the attackers taking a quick tap.

As The Rugby Ref measures out 10m the defenders stand in front of the new mark shouting "they can't take a quick one ref".

Now there are two issues here:
  1. The defenders shouldn't be there, they should be a further 10m back, so they are all offside.
  2. There is no such law as "can't take the second penalty quickly".
What the law actually says is:

21.7 What the opposing team must do at a penalty kick

(a) Must run from the mark. The opposing team must immediately run towards their own goal
line until they are at least 10 metres away from the mark for the penalty kick, or until they
have reached their goal line if that is nearer the mark.

(b) Must keep running. Even if the penalty kick is taken and the kicker’s team is playing the
ball, opposing players must keep running until they have retired the necessary distance.
They must not take part in the game until they have done so.

(c) Kick taken quickly. If the penalty kick is taken so quickly that opponents have no
opportunity to retire, they will not be penalised for this. However, they must continue to
retire as described in 21.7(b) above or until a team-mate who was 10 metres from the mark
has run in front of them, before they take part in the game.

(d) Interference. The opposing team must not do anything to delay the penalty kick or obstruct
the kicker. They must not intentionally take, throw or kick the ball out of reach of the kicker
or the kicker’s team mates.

Sanction: Any infringement by the opposing team results in a second penalty kick, 10
metres in front of the mark for the first kick. This mark must not be within 5 metres of the
goal line. Any player may take the kick. The kicker may change the type of kick and may
choose to kick at goal. If the referee awards a second penalty kick, the second penalty kick
is not taken before the referee has made the mark indicating the place of the penalty.

The Rugby Ref has highlighted the last sentence of the sanction.  As you can see the attackers can take the second penalty kick, once the referee has made the new mark.  No mention of "they can't take it quick".

It works like this, the referee will walk 10m.  While he does this the defenders must run back 20m, to put themselves onside.  The law specifically says they must "run from the mark" and "keep running".  Once he has advanced 10m the referee will make the new mark.  As soon as he has done so the attackers may go.

Standing in front of the referee shouting "they can't take a quick one ref" is a breach of 21.7 above, it is also dissent towards the referee and could be construed as deliberate offending.  So at best the penalty is moving forward another 10m, and you could easily get a yellow card.

Urban Myth No 1...........Busted!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 15.

The Rugby Ref hasn't had much rugby over the festive period.  In fact The Rugby Ref has only had one game in the whole of December.  All the rest have been called off due to the adverse weather.  One just as The Rugby Ref arrived at the ground after driving for 45 minutes.

The one game that was on, was a bit one sided, but highly enjoyable.  In fact the losing team seemed to enjoy themselves more than the winning team!  Very good food and hospitality as well.  The ref's room is not bad.  It is small but comfortable with a lock on the door.  No separate showers or toilet, so this would normally rate a score of 5 out of 10.

Unfortunately The Rugby Ref had to share this "compact and bijou" room with another rugby ref.  Nothing wrong with that I hear you cry and The Rugby Ref agrees, however two club touch judges also insisted on using it.  Now bear in mind there wasn't enough room to swing a cat to start with and you can tell there will be problems with four grown men trying to get changed in there.  In fact everyone had to get changed in relays. This meant The Rugby Ref's routine was upset, and The Rugby Ref is a creature of habit, so for that reason this changing room gets a 4 out of 10.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 14

The Rugby Ref was pleasantly surprised when he arrived mid week at this club.  They have done some building work since last season and The Rugby Ref was greeted with the sight of three new changing rooms, for a team of three match officials.

In something reminiscent of the old game show "Let's Make a Deal", The Rugby Ref said "let's see what's behind door number 1?"  Unfortunately the answer was some ladders and various decorating materials.

So The Rugby Ref said "let's see what's behind door number 2?"  The answer to that was locked.
"Let's see what's behind door number 3?"  This time it was trestle tables and old kit.

So after a promising start The Rugby Ref ended up in a spare team changing room.  It was very cold and not particularly clean.  The door at the far end led to a store room and players kept coming in, ("excuse me Sir"), to collect tackle bags, flag poles, etc.  Showers were shared with the away team and there was no pressure.  The Rugby Ref gives this changing room 2 out of 10.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Rugb Ref's changing room, No 13.

The Rugby Ref was at an Army Camp for this mid-week game.  So a nice big changing room with everything a ref could want.  The armed guards were a little over the top, but hey! you can't complain.  10 out of 10.

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 12.

Saturday afternoon league game.  The club had a flood the night before, which is not their fault, but they could have brushed out The Rugby Ref's room, like they did their own changing room.  A small room with no facilities, so The Rugby Ref had to shower with the visitors and as described, there was a big puddle in the middle of the changing room.  The Rugby Ref gives this room 3 out of 10.  It would have been 4 without the puddle.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The All Blacks are coming!

The All Blacks are coming and on Saturday 6th November The Rugby Ref will be at Twickenham to watch the game, although like most referee's he will spend more time watching and listening to the Referee than the passage of play.

An Adidas production team will be traveling with the All Blacks throughout their tour of Europe so they can provide exclusive content on a newly established Twitter account. They will be posting photos and video of the All Blacks throughout the tour using the unrivalled access that they have to the team.

You could have the chance to ask Isaia Toeava a question which will be filmed and posted next week, you also have the chance to win an All Black jersey this week.  Adidas are also giving away lots of great rugby merchandise through the channel.  So if you want the chance to interact with the All Blacks, get onto twitter and follow the feed.

The Twitter channel can be found at:

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 11.

Unfortunately The Rugby Ref can't show you a picture of yesterday's changing room.  This is because when he arrived at the club he was given a list of prohibited items.  Firearms, drugs, mobile phones, electrical items, aerosols, glass containers, etc, etc.  This meant that The Rugby Ref was unable to take a photo of the changing room on his phone.  The photo below shows the rugby pitch on the left.  It is surrounded by a 30 foot high wall, topped with razor wire.  The changing room is the small brick building in the bottom right of the compound.  I am sure you have worked out by now that The Rugby Ref was in a prison.  The changing room was basic, no coat hooks, everything bolted down and vandal proof, but under the circumstances that's understandable.  There was a toilet, hot showers and it was very, very secure.  The Rugby Ref gives this room 8 out of 10.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 10.

Another nice club with good facilities.  Large ref's room with its own showers, although no separate toilet.
What let's this room down, as in many clubs, is that they use it as a general storeroom.  As a result The Rugby Ref gives this room 7 out of 10.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 9.

This changing room has been decorated since last season, and a very nice door sign painted on.  Lots of room and a mirror, but you have to traipse down the corridor, past an open door to the pitch, to get to the showers, which are shared with the players.  No toilet.  The club though are very hospitable.  The Rugby Ref was going to give this room 4 out of 10, but he loves the door sign so much that he is going to upgrade it to 5 out of 10.  Amazing what a lick of paint can do.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 8.

You might be forgiven for thinking this changing room looks like a school changing room.  That's because this changing room is the masters' changing room at a very good rugby playing school, where The Rugby Ref was refereeing the under 16's.  OK, it's a bit of a mess, but it's secure and warm, there are good showers and toilets; and sometimes it's nice not to be changing on your own.  The Rugby Ref gives this changing room 7 out of 10.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Managing the Scrum – by Brian Moore (ex England International Hooker)

The Rugby Ref is always happy to take advice and consider other people's point of view.  With that in mind The Rugby Ref is posting someone elses thoughts today, rather than his own.  The Rugby Ref has never played in the front row; but he knows a man who has!

The following tips by Brian Moore on managing the scrum, were extracted from "The Rugby Referees' Forum", and were submitted by Brian Moore under the username BCM666. On the forum BCM666 (Brian Moore) says “anything I post can be disseminated to anyone; including Paddy O'Brien!” so it is with that general disclaimer that the following document is produced.

Moore represented England, winning a total of 64 England caps between 1987 and 1995, making him the 13th most-capped Englishman (as of July 2007). Moore played in three Rugby World Cups including in 1991, where along with Jason Leonard and Jeff Probyn he was part of a destructive English front row as they reached the final, losing a tight match 12-6 to Australia at Twickenham. Moore was also a member of the England side which won Grand Slams in 1991, 1992 and 1995. In 1991, he was voted Rugby World Player of the Year, a decade before the sport's governing body (the IRB), began its awards programme.

He went on two British and Irish Lions tours, winning five test caps. In Australia in 1989, the Lions won the series 2-1, and Moore was famously caught celebrating the morning after on Sydney Harbour Bridge, doing aeroplane impressions.

Having been a vocal critic of referees for many years. Moore took the Rugby Football Union’s Entry Level Referee Award course and qualified as a referee in 2010. *

* Entry from Wikipedia

Pre-game brief about scrum

1. Before the game talk to the scrumhalf and the front row whilst the team is in the changing room. This is so that their peers know what they have been told and they cannot claim afterwards that you did not tell them something. It also helps you on the field because if they give away a number of penalties or free kicks it is highly likely that someone will say "He told you about this before the game - why don’t you listen"

2. I would tell them that whatever has happened previously in this game the ball is going to go in straight and by that I mean down the middle line which is below where the shoulders meet, not anywhere else. Furthermore, if this doesn't happen I will yellow card without hesitation.

3. To the front rows I would say that I will make a long mark where the engagement has to take place and they should use it because from the mark I will judging whether they or the opposition have pushed over it before the ball is put in.

4. Regarding the CTPE I would tell them that they must listen to the timing and do the phases when called. I would also explain that I have to check certain things are right on each stage and I have to have time to do this so the call will not be rushed, but I would try and make the calls without long pauses.

5. I would tell them that on the engagement I will not allow them to drive on impact and they will not be allowed to drive until the ball is fed by the scrum half.

6. The final point I would make is that the law states binding is on the other props shirt and that I wanted long binds. If I catch them binding on the arm they will be penalised, even if the scrum does not collapse.

Pushing over the mark

1. Regarding the mark and one pack going over it. As far as I am aware under the laws, the only responsibility a pack has is to engage on that mark and not do anything to move away from it. It does not have a responsibility to engage as hard as the other pack and certainly not to match any illegal early push - which is what is actually meant when referees say 'take the hit'.

2. It is actually almost impossible for a whole pack to walk backwards and make it look natural, but as far as I am aware a pack does not have any responsibility to resist an early and illegal shove that comes before the ball leaves the scrum half's hands and which moves it backwards.

3. What many seem to fail to realise is that it is perfectly possible to engage with considerable force and not advance over the mark; even if the other pack engages meekly. You might get a six inches or a foot of movement forward, and I stress might, but this would be distinguishable from the early push which almost always starts and continues until the whistle or collapse or the scrum running all over the place.

4. Therefore I equate a pack going over the mark by anything more as an early hit and most of all from a referees point of view, if you have made a clear mark you can simply point to it and the fact that the pack you are penalising is over the mark and they will have to adjust the force with which they hit. If that means they cannot hit and drive early so much the better, however much they complain and do not like it. Again, if anybody can point to me where in the laws there is a responsibility for any pack to engage in a certain manner, other than obeying the CTPE, then I will reconsider this.

Marginal calls / issues in the scrum

With regard to the marginal things that occur in the front row, I could produce what I consider to be a useful guide to who is more likely to be at fault when scrums collapse, wheel etc, but this is all dependent on certain things being equal - like all the laws being enforced as fully as possible.

The following is my rough guide to guessing (because we all do , it is just that some of us do it with a bit more knowledge - only the two props know which one was responsible and they will both lie when you ask them anyway)which I stress is not absolute.

These rely on you ensuring that there is no pushing until the ball is fed and that it is fed along the middle line.

Why the feed must be straight

1. The reason for the above is, as I have said before, is that if you force the SH to feed the ball straight the hooker has to put his weight on the non-striking foot, dive forward when he sweeps his leg and complete the hook in a roughly round movement. He cannot do this or will not if the scrum is moving. Therefore, it is safe to assume that he and his pack will, at least before the ball is fed, want a stationary scrum. In fact, unless they go for an eight man shove they will want it still until the ball leaves the scrum; with the possible exception of wheeling slightly one way or the other to move the defending flankers away from the pass or run

Collapsed on put in

1. If a scrum collapses on the put-in side before the ball is put in I look to see if either prop has lost his bind. This is not always the cause of a collapse but more often than not it is done when under pressure. If the other prop is legally bound I would ping the one losing his bind. Even if you are not right at least you can point to some offence and the prop knows he should have been bound and cannot argue. You will get more right than wrong.

2. If the scrum has not moved much and by this I mean a yard or so look at the position of the two props on the floor. If the TH is turned on and on his side it is because he was twisting in before the collapse and it is likely to be his fault. Again you can point to his position and he cannot really argue.

3. It is possible for the LH to have gone down but as the TH was not in a legal position - IE he was twisting or boring in, then you can rightly say that the LH should not be expected to hang on for grim death when being twisted illegally and even if he does collapse it you can say that he wouldn't have had to do any of this if the TH was square. Almost always when this happens the TH as shifted his bind to the arm, sleeve or under the armpit. He would not end up in this position if he were bound on the shirt with a long bind.

4. Also bear in mind - if the put-in side is not being mullered, what have they to gain from collapsing a stationary scrum before the put-in?

5. If the props go down square it is more likely to be the LH's fault. There is no reason for a TH who is not going backwards to collapse chest first as he is not being shoved. This is where what is now call 'hinging' comes in - where the LH bends from the waist and sends the TH down. This is usually evidenced by the bend coming from the waist and not involving much leg bend.

6. If the scrum goes down on the far side before the ball is fed it is likely to be the put-in sides TH. The LH on that side would be either seeking to keep it still for his hooker to strike against the head or pressuring the TH in advance of a shove. A collapse before the ball is in is not any real advantage to him whereas it is for the TH if he knows that the pressure is likely to send him backwards when the shove comes on.

7. After the feed note! If you go round the other side you can see this more clearly. And let us just clear up one thing - it is perfectly possible to see how straight the feed is from this side - if anything it is easier because you don't have the scrum half to look over. I would, if anything stand on the far side more often than not as you have a better view of the tunnel and are nearer the breakdown, if as is usual the ball is passed the normal; way. The only problem is a number eight pick up but you can avoid this by standing 5 -7 yards away as he is likely to drive reasonably close so that he is not an easy tackle line. And yes, you can still easily see what is going on with binds, the feed etc.

Collapsed while moving

1. If a scrum is moving when it collapses - bear this in mind - of what advantage is it to the advancing pack to take it down? Ignore this rubbish about double bluffs and trying to con penalties; it rarely happens and if they do con you then good for them.

2. The reason you can be reasonably sure about this is that it is not in a front rowers psyche to collapse when he is in the dominant position. This is why players like playing in the front row. Shoving your opposite number is the equivalent of side-stepping for a back only much more satisfying for entirely justifiable macho reasons.

3. furthermore, it is dangerous to collapse when you are advancing for several reasons. Unlike when the retreating prop collapses you cannot be sure your back 5 will stop pushing. They may not be able to recognise immediately that you have gone down. If they keep pushing your neck can get bent or extended, neither of which are much fun. Many times when this happened to me I would be screaming so that the back five could see we were on the floor and stop pushing. For the retreating prop - OK he might get driven over but getting trodden on might be painful; it is not the same as above.

4. Also, when this happens see which prop ends up in the more comfortable position. If the retreating prop has both feet back and lands square on that is good sign he has collapsed because he as been able to end up in a decent position (all relative I know).


1. A scrum cannot wheel quickly without being pulled illegally one way or the other. The natural way of achieving a wheel - where one prop stays still and the other drives means that it cannot be done quickly unless there is such an imbalance that there is a complete mismatch in the two front rows - in which case you have to ask why are they wheeling rather than simply shoving their opponents off the ball?

2. Any quick wheel penalise the non-put-in side even if it happens after the feed. A side hooking the ball may want a slight wheel to put the other back row further from the tackle area, but they would not do this before the ball is controlled by the number eight because if they do whilst the ball is making its way there, there is every possibility that one of dullard and clumsy 2nd rows will kick it through. Also the number eight is not in a position to pick it up and do the back row move whilst it is not at his feet or very close.

3. Similarly they (put in side) would not wheel the scrum quickly even if the ball is at their number eights feet because it makes it much harder to control the pick up if the second rows feet are tap-dancing about.

4. Scrums that wheel slowly are not usually dangerous and provided they do not collapse I think you just play on making sure the back rows are legally bound etc.

5. Also make sure you are consistent with how far you allow the scrum to wheel before a reset - players get really annoyed if the other side is given more time.

6. Finally, one thing with the flankers bind. Watch out for which player he is binding on. He may stay shoulder and upper arm engaged but simply move up from his prop to their prop and this number eights do the same going from their second row to their prop. surprisingly the Kiwis are masters at this.

Lifting in scrum

1. Lifting - one of the reasons I have a poor opinion of BL is that he was unable to understand that it is not possible for a prop to stand up and by doing so suspend hi9himself in mid-air, three feet off the ground. **** me, you don't have to be a prop to get this, trying standing up and getting to where Phil Vickery found himself against the so-called Beast. you might do it if you're David Blaine but not otherwise.

2. Very dangerous - hyper extension if still bound in dangerous coming down if not. in the air - NEVER the liftee's fault. It is technically possible for a retreating second row to stop the drive by diving under his front row and shooting them up, but this is so cynical and difficult it might occur once in whatever.

Standing up

1. Finally with standing up - you are allowed to ping the first player you see pop-up but I think that this is not right. Standing up dissipates a drive because the pressure goes up not back. If a pack is retreating it can do this to stop it; if you are going forward you do not want to stand up because you cannot drive anymore. You could posit that the player must have not been driving straight but that may not be the case and given that he has weakened his position I don' think you should ping - you should restart if necessary. I would carry on because the player is not in any danger and the scrum is likely to have become static because of his standing.

Leg lifting

1. Some props try to lift their opponent's leg during a drive. If I saw this I would be considering a YC straight away. This is highly dangerous and the prop doing it knows it; it cannot be accidental and i would at least leave the player in doubt about how lucky he was not getting carded.

Prop going down

This is an example that is often put to me - there is no definitive answer to this but you should consider the following:

1. If you do not allow pushing from either side before the ball is fed you get a lot less buggering about with binding. The present trend for going down at top level is a direct result of the elite referees wrongly allowing shoving straight after the engagement. I have no idea why they chose to allow this, other than thinking they know best and not understanding the consequences but what that does is make getting into the best position you can as early as you can. That is why you see the frantic grabbing and wrestling or delays to get the last bind.

2. If you don't allow a shove the props have time readjust and even re-bind before it makes a real difference and hence you get less buggering about.

3. This is also being made worse by the elite referees wrongly telling the scrum halves to put the ball immediately after the engagement. They presumably are doing this thinking that the longer the scrum goes on the more can go wrong. What they actually do by doing this is concertina all the elements of the scrum so that props and hookers have to get in the best position as fast as they can and whilst you want them to do this reasonably quickly anyway it is stupid to ask them to do it almost as soon as they have engaged.

4. In any event the law does not say the ball has to be put-in like this it says it must be put in without delay as soon as the scrum is stable and square. The elite referees all know the laws and are experienced I can only therefore consider that they are being willful when they pursue a strategy like this; it absolutely clear that what they are doing will hinder the already unacceptable situation and yet they propose it; discuss it and carry it out - I am genuinely aghast at how these things come to be formulated in the brains of experienced officials - absolutely aghast.

5. So no early pushing less important to get a good bind, more time to readjust and fewer problems.

6. When it comes to the fear of getting shoved nd so it is difficult if a LH is going down before the feed. What I would say is that if a TH is sufficiently good to exert sufficient pressure for the LH to fear this, then he is probably good enough not to allow the scrum to go down.

7. If a pack is well on top it is able to virtually dictate how a scrum goes. It can choose not to hit over the mark; can not shove early; can keep the front row off the ground and still rag its opponents.

8. Another of the results of what the elite referees have done is that weaker packs not get hammered all day long and only because of brute force.

9. Consider this - a put-in side has an inherent weakness anyway when scrums are refereed properly because their hooker has to get into a striking stance which means he is not square and any push he exerts is lessened because of this. It gets worse when he has to take weight off his striking leg and hook the ball. For the time he is performing the hook he can transmit little or no shove at all.

10. Thus, the non put-in pack has 8 against 7 and 1/2 for the beginning and 8 against 7 during the strike. Only when the hooker has got the ball back can he try and readjust into a proper pushing position and if a shove is well timed he never gets to that position.

11. However, there used to be a catchphrase - 'scrums are only 5 seconds long' When the shove from a superior pack wasn't allowed immediately the other pack could get ready - engage, lock out for a few seconds and the ball would struck into channel one and away. After that it didn’t matter whether the rest of the pack got shoved back. With proper technique and concentration even weaker packs could compete, although it was very hard work. What we have at the moment is one pack that can simply roll over the other because if uses it advantage and the momentum of the engagement.

12. The obvious time to look out for the rare double bluff is near the end of a game etc.

13. Keep in mind an overall picture of how the scrums are going. Why is it that pack A can keep steady on their ball and not other times? Why is a scrum wheeling all the time until one pack wants a straight one and miraculously manages to achieve this? **

** All tips taken from this thread on The Rugby Referees' Forum

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 7.

Yesterday and today The Rugby Ref did an under 16's, rugby 7's tournament.  Due to all the changing rooms and showers being full of minors, The Rugby Ref had to turn up in his tracksuit and use his car as a changing room.  As this was no fault of the clubs hosting the tournament, The Rugby Ref is not going to post a score for these clubs.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 6.

Sunday afternoon.  2nd XV Cup.  Nice little club, running on a small budget, but they still have a referee's room.  The clubhouse is shared with a cricket club, which explains why the referee's room is full of white umpire's coats, wickets and bails.  The room is small, has its own shower, but no toilet.  The Rugby Referee gives this changing room 6 out of 10.

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 5.

Saturday afternoon, Junior Vase Cup, at a nice friendly club out in the country.  The clubhouse seems fairly new and well maintained, but there is no referee's changing room facilities.  The Rugby Ref had to use the 2nd XV changing room, which was also being used by the physio, so a short wait for them to finish before The Rugby Ref could get changed.  The Rugby Ref was also told it was lucky the 2nd XV game (also at home) had been cancelled or they really wouldn't have known where to put me!  After the game The Rugby Ref had to share the players showers and again negotiate with the physio over sharing the changing room.  Having said all that the friendliness and hospitality displayed by the home club was second to none and The Rugby Ref always enjoy going there.  However the score is for the changing room only and The Rugby Ref has to give this one 3 out of 10.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Rugby needs ref's - it could be YOU!

The game of Rugby always needs more referees, have "YOU" ever thought of becoming one yourself? 

Maybe your playing days are nearing the end, but you still want to stay involved in the game? 
Maybe you want to put something back into the game?
Maybe your kids have started playing and you want to be involved with them?
Maybe you aspire to reach the top in rugby refereeing?

Whatever the reason, rugby needs you, so how do you start?

Refereeing Mini-Midi Course
This course will equip you with the basic knowledge required to referee at mini-midi level.  This covers age groups under 7 through to under 12 (the continuum).  It's a great way to get involved if your children are playing in these age groups.
For details of the RFU "Refereeing Mini-Midi Course" (new for September 2010), contact the "Club Coaching Contact" at your local club, contact your local Referee Society, or follow THIS LINK.

Entry Level Referee Award. (ELRA)
This award offers an outstanding introduction to refereeing rugby union (is there any other kind?), and will equip you with the skills and confidence to do so.  This award is recognised by the RFU as a formal refereeing qualification.
For details of the RFU "Entry Level Referee Award" contact the "Club Referee Contact" at your local club, contact your local Referee Society, or follow THIS LINK.

For more advice on how to start refereeing or choosing an appropriate course, you can contact a member of the RFU referee development team, by following THIS LINK.

The Rugby Ref started off helping the coach for his son's team, at his local club.  The club then offered to pay for anyone who wanted to referee, provided they helped the club out at the appropriate age level.  The Rugby Ref volunteered and did an ELRA course (this was before the Mini-Midi course was introduced).  He then refereed his son's team before joining his local referee society and progressing to adult games.  The Rugby Ref likes doing courses and collecting qualifications.  The Rugby ref is now a qualified Society Touch Judge, a qualified Referee Coach and an RFU Referee Trainer.

For more information on getting involved in refereeing you can go to THIS PAGE on the RFU website, and watch the excellent "Get Involved In Refereeing" video.

You can also look at this booklet "Becoming an RFU Referee".

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 4.

Tonight The Rugby Ref had an Under 16, county schools selection game.  The game was fantastic fun for both The Rugby Ref and the players.  Played in good spirit with little to no foul play.  The changing room was the best The Rugby Ref has been in, even better than a Championship changing room The Rugby Ref has used.  Large, clean, with it's own shower and toilet cubicle.  There is a mirror and a sink, the showers were hot and the room is secure.  The Rugby Ref gives this changing room 10 out of 10 as he cannot see any way of improving it.  This is the benchmark by which all changing rooms will be judged.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Running at the ref..........a new trend?

So The Rugby Ref had a pre-season selection game last weekend.  Four 20 minute quarters and an interesting incident that The Rugby Ref wants to tell you about.

Third quarter of the game, we are in broken play.  Black have the ball on the right side of the field when there is a turnover ball.  A Red opposition player ends up with the ball about 15 feet in front of The Rugby Ref at his 2 o'clock position. Play is fragmented with no discernible lines.

The Red player starts running straight toward The Rugby Ref, who looks right and left quickly, there are no players within 10 feet of him on either side.  As the player gets closer, he looks straight at The Rugby Ref.  The Rugby Ref is in no doubt that the player knows exactly where The Rugby Ref is standing.  The Rugby Ref takes a couple of paces to his left and sees the player adjust his run to keep heading straight at The Rugby Ref.  The Rugby Ref takes another look around, no one either side of him, but there may be a player behind him?  At this point the red player runs straight into The Rugby Ref, who twists side on and shrugs off the contact.

Peep! blows The Rugby Ref, "Penalty to Black".

"What for"? exclaims the red player.
"You deliberately ran into me" says The Rugby Ref.
"You were in my way" replies the red player.
"There was room all round me, but you chose to run straight at me", says The Rugby Ref, "penalty to black".
There ended the conversation.

The Rugby Ref has spoken to other referees about this incident and it seems to be an increasing trend for players to use the referee as a shield between themselves and any opposition players.  This is a trend that The Rugby Ref is determined to stamp out.  From these other referees' comments it would seem that other referee's are of the same opinion.

"I had a few players run into me, or toward me this weekend ... is it a trend to use the ref as a shield"?

"Good for you. Too many players are using this as a deliberate tactic and have been in recent years".

"He saw you / was looking at you and adjusted when you moved... on that basis it was deliberate contact".

"In my opinion, from your description, he was using you to "snooker" the opponent behind you, keeping you between him and the opponent".

"Maybe he had been watching the tri-nations and thought to himself, I'll have a piece of that knocking the ref over action".

They all said "card him"! 

Maybe The Rugby Ref is getting too lenient?

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 3.

This weekends changing room was at a club with a fairly new clubhouse, which they largely built themselves!  This is a good size changing room with its own toilet, shower, sink and a mirror.  It's private and the shower is hot and powerful.  The only downside is that the floor is bare concrete and the walls are painted breeze block.  The Rugby Ref knows from experience that because of this the room gets very cold in the winter.  Despite that The Rugby Ref likes this changing room and gives it 8 out of 10.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Chopper "Asks the ref".

The Rugby Ref has had an email from Chopper, who is a Redruth and Pirates fan.

The Rugby Ref would like to respond to one particular questions from Chopper's email, (abbreviations in the original email have been expanded).

Dear Rugby Ref,
Would appreciate your views on how variations in
Southern Hemisphere / Northern Hemisphere referees
interpretation of the Laws of the Game should be managed.

In response The Rugby Ref would like to quote Paddy O'Brien, Head of IRB's Referee Board.

"Two hemispheres, the same laws.
There is common misconception that there are two sets of laws, one for Six Nations and European rugby, one for the Super 14 and Tri Nations.  Some even go so far as to say that there is a law book for professional rugby and another for amateur.  There is no difference in the laws at any level.  However there is a difference in standards between referees, and a difference in players.  I see that there is far more player buy-in at more junior grades of rugby.  Generally, the players at this level want to play rugby and "cheat" a lot less.
At top levels, players are highly tuned, extremely well prepared athletes.  They will bend the laws as far as possible.  This inevitably impacts on how the game is refereed and managed.
As to perceived differences in hemispheres, I would put this down to two factors.  The laws are the same, but the weather conditions are different when the tournaments are being run.  Hard grounds in South Africa produce a different game to soaking, windy conditions at Twickenham.
It is also fair to say that different countries have a different style of rugby as well.
Even in the Northern Hemisphere, there are differences between nations.  So, whilst the laws are equal across the globe, players will play in a different way, thus invoking different situations in which the laws are applied."

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 2.

Today I did a pre-season selection game.  This is the changing room I used.  It's actually the clubs boiler room / store cupboard.  The only thing this changing room has going for it, is that it's warm!  The Rugby Ref gives this changing room 1 out of 10.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

What did he give that for?............or the art of communication.

When The Rugby Ref blows his whistle he has to communicate to everyone why he has done so. He can do this using his voice and with signals.  The sequence usually goes whistle, voice, primary signal, secondary signal. But why bother?

Well communication is important for the players, the coaches and the spectators.

The players need to know what they have done wrong and what they have to do next. The coaches need to know what the penalty count is and why, so they can work on reducing the penalty count in training. The spectators just want to know what's happening.

Spectators may not be aware that The Rugby Ref uses different whistle tones for different stoppages. Lineout, ball going dead, etc get a quick peep just so people know to stop playing. Scrums and free kicks will get a slightly longer and louder blast. Penalties will result in a long loud blast that should stop everyone in their tracks.

Short, clear and concise. "Penalty, green 7, hands in"; or "Penalty, blue 3, off his feet". The Rugby Ref may also decide to include a short explanation if he feels it is required, to prevent repeat offences. But this should be a short statement, not an invitation to a discussion. "Black 6, you were off your feet... no hands, roll away". "Red 3, release man and ball completely before you compete for the ball".

Primary signal.
This should be what you are giving, penalty, free kick or scrum.

Secondary signal.
This should be why you are giving it. In at the side, knock on or pulling down the maul.

Signals should be crisp, clear and unambiguous. Occasionally The Rugby Ref may not have time for a secondary signal, if a quick penalty is taken for instance. Wherever possible though, The Rugby Ref will try to keep everyone informed with good clear communication. Players and coaches may not be exactly happy with a decision, but at least they will know what they did wrong and why they got penalised.

Next time you watch rugby on the television watch the referee and see if you can work out what happened just from his whistle and signals.

You can see examples of all the official signals on the IRB Laws website by clicking HERE.

So.......what 'did' he give that for?

Monday, 16 August 2010

The game is to be played by players who are on their feet.

"The game is to be played by players who are on their feet".  You will find this phrase, or variations of it, throughout the "Laws of the Game" and it seems, on the face of it, to be a pretty obvious statement.  The confusion comes from the often ignored statement that "players who are off their feet are out of the game".

Let's look at a couple of definitions, because The Rugby Ref likes to be sure we are all talking about the same thing.

Player on his feet:  This is a player whose weight is solely supported on his feet

Player off his feet:  This is a player who is on the ground.  On the ground includes having one knee on the ground, leaning on the ground, or sitting on the ground.  It also includes leaning on, or sitting on, another player who is on the ground.  In other words a player whose weight is not solely supported by his feet.

So if you are off your feet you are out of the game.  The Rugby Ref knows this, but sometimes he sees the players forget it. 

For instance if the ball is made available after a tackle The Rugby Ref often sees players on their knees pick it up and pass it.  The Rugby Ref also sees players lying on the floor sweep it back with their arms.  "But Ref" they cry "it was out" or "you didn't call ruck".  The Rugby Ref then has to remind them that they were off their feet and out of the game.

Sometimes The Rugby Ref sees a player lying on the floor, who tackles the ball carrier.  Most player know this is illegal, what they find harder to comprehend is a player on one knee, or leaning on a player on the ground, who does the same thing.  Remember the definitions.

Finally an example that always has the crowd calling for The Rugby Ref's head.  A player gets tackled close to the goal line and then scrabbles along the floor on his hands and knees to reach out and score a try.  The main reason this causes howls of protest when The Rugby Ref gives a penalty against the ball carrier, is because people have partial knowledge of Law 22.4 (d) and (e).

(d) Momentum try. If an attacking player with the ball is tackled short of the goal line but the
player’s momentum carries the player in a continuous movement along the ground into the
opponents’ in-goal, and the player is first to ground the ball, a try is scored.

(e) Tackled near the goal line. If a player is tackled near to the opponents’ goal line so that
this player can immediately reach out and ground the ball on or over the goal line, a try is

Either the player's momentum carries him over the line in "one continuous movement", or the player reaches out and grounds the ball "immediately".  What the law does not allow the player to do is fall short of the line and then have another go by doing a baby crawl over the line.

So The Rugby Ref says remember two things:
  1. "The game is to be played by players who are on their feet".
  2. "Players who are off their feet are out of the game".

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Let 'me' ref the game.

"Let me ref the game".  This is something The Rugby Ref says to the team Captains before the game, but do the Captains pass it on and what does it mean? 

It is linked to the fact that rugby referees have a wide latitude to "manage the game", rather than blindly following the laws of the game.  What does this mean, how does it work; and more importantly how does it affect the players?

Let's have a look at some figures.  At the following breakdowns I have listed the approximate number of offences that The Rugby Ref could penalise a team for:

Lineout, 45 possible offences
Scrum, 45 possible offences
Tackle, 23 possible offences
Ruck, 19 possible offences
Maul, 14 possible offences

What you can see straight away, from those numbers, is that if The Rugby Ref wants to be pedantic and play to the letter of the law, he could find something to penalise at every single breakdown.  However this is where referees have to apply materiality and use their management skills, if they didn't the game would take place on a patch of grass ten feet square!

By the same token players need to learn to "let me ref the game".  Just because The Rugby Ref hasn't blown his whistle, doesn't mean he hasn't seen an offence.  The Rugby Ref sees everything, but then he has to decide, "do I need to blow for this offence?", or "is this offence having a material affect on the game?".  If the answer to either questions is 'Yes' then The Rugby Ref next needs to decide, "do I play advantage?", "do I wait to see what happens next?", or "do I blow straight away?".  All of these decisions need to be made in the blink of an eye.

When players point out perceived offences to The Rugby Ref, they are not seeing the "big picture".  They are not seeing that it may be to their advantage to keep playing, they are not seeing that the player on the floor is not in anyones way and is having no effect on the game, even though technically he may be committing an offence.  They also don't realise that they make it very hard for The Rugby Ref to penalise the offence, without giving the impression that he is acting on their instructions!

If the players want The Rugby Ref to penalise every single offence that happens, as soon as it happens, then The Rugby Ref can do so; but the players won't get much of a game.  Likewise The Rugby Ref can't go the other way and ignore offences just to allow a full running game of Rugby.  So The Rugby Ref has to "manage" the game.......and the players need to keep quiet.

In other words.......let me ref the game.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Will Brewer "Asks the ref".

The Rugby Ref has had an email from Will Brewer, who we think is in the USA.
Will asked this very interesting questions by emailing to "Ask The Ref" (see top right of this blog).

Will Brewer to asktheref
Hello Rugby Ref,
I've downloaded and read the IRB Laws, even passed their online exam.
However I still feel there are some "finer" points or definitions that are
missing (enjoyed your blog on the tackler/tackled "immediately" doing what
they are supposed to do-always thought there was more to that). Do you know
of any further, more detailed information sites?
Thanks, Will

Will brings up a very important point.  Is there more to this game than the laws?  The answer is a definite "yes".

The "Laws of the Game" of Rugby Union are a framework which The Rugby Ref uses to "manage" the game.  It's a bit like learning to drive.  You have read the highway code, you have practised the mechanics of driving the car off the public road and it all seems very straight forward.  But the first time you drive onto a motorway or a main road, you realise there is a lot more to driving than just learning the rules of the road!  Rugby Union is no different.  In the UK when you attend an Entry Level Refereeing Award (ELRA) course one of the first things they tell you about is S.E.L. 
  • Safety
  • Enjoyment
  • Law
These are the basic principles that The Rugby Ref uses.  It should come as no surprise that Safety is top of the list, but it may surprise you that Law is at the bottom.  The Rugby Ref is there to facilitate the players getting an enjoyable game of rugby; within the laws of the game.  The Rugby Ref is there "for" the players.  Never forget that.

Managing the game and what that means exactly is the topic of The Rugby Ref's next post, which will be published shortly.  Watch out for it.

To answer Will's question on where to go for more detailed information, there are a few places The Rugby Ref would recommend:
  • Visit the IRB Laws website  This is an excellent resource which not only explains the laws of the game, but provides videos which show them in application.  It also has fantastic sections on "Law Application Guidelines" and "Clarifications in Law".
  • Contact your local Referees Society.  They will be more than happy to give you information on referee's courses and if you join the society they will provide help, tuition and training.
  • Visit the website for your local Union, for instance USA Rugby and The RFU both have information on refereeing courses or becoming a referee.  This can be at mini/midi level, or adult rugby.
  • Finally The Rugby Ref highly recommends RugbyRefs.Com and their excellent forum, which is contributed to by Rugby Referees from around the world.
I hope that answers your question Will; and keep reading.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Rugby Ref's changing room, No 1.

In what The Rugby Ref hopes will be a regular slot he is posting photographs of the changing rooms we ref's get given by clubs.

Last Saturday I did a pre-season 10's tournament, this is the changing room I used.  It's one of the better ones.  It looks pretty basic, but it has it's own showers and toilets, the water is hot and the room is clean and secure.  The Rugby Ref likes this changing room and gives it 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Whistle while you work.

The Rugby Ref's tool of the trade is his whistle. The Rugby Ref loves his whistle and for any self respecting rugby referee there is only one whistle worth taking out on the pitch. I am talking of course, of the legendary Acme Thunderer.

Football referees use plastic whistles. They are shrill and high pitched, they are a bit.... "look at me!" Perfect in fact for the prima donna world of footballers. The Acme Thunderer on the other hand is metal, it's solid, dependable and practical. It has a deep commanding tone, it's a man's whistle.

A few weeks ago The Rugby Ref did the ultimate in referee geekness, he visited the Acme Whistle factory in Hockley, Birmingham. Now let's face it. When I say Acme some people think of Wile E Coyote and Road Runner. But referee's only think of the Acme Thunderer.

Acme whistles was founded by Joseph Hudson who worked out of a wash house in his end of terrace house in Birmingham in 1881. The Metropolitan Police had advertised for something to replace the wooden hand rattle that policemen carried at that time. Hudson invented the familiar policeman's whistle which when demonstrated on Clapham Common, could be heard over a mile away. It could also be gripped in the teeth leaving the hands free. The Metropolitan Police immediately placed an order for 21,000 whistles. Unfortunately Hudson did not have enough money to buy the raw materials to produce the order, so the police loaned him £20 and the rest is history. To date over 45 million Acme Metropolitan Police whistles have been sold to over 120 authorities around the world.

The Acme Thunderer was invented in 1884 and has been used in both World Wars, World Cups and Olympic Games. It was Acme who supplied all of the ship's mates whistles to RMS Titanic as standard issue safety equipment. An Acme Thunderer belonging to Herbert Pitman, third officer on the RMS Titanic was sold at auction in 1991 for £31,000.

Acme now make over 200 kinds of whistle, still operating from the factory in Hockley that they have occupied since the 1800's. The Rugby Ref loved that factory, it was a maze of small wooden staircases and narrow corridors. The stairs were all worn from the thousands of feet that had walked up and down them. Every single whistle is still tested before it leaves the factory, exactly as stipulated by Joseph Hudson for his first order of Metropolitan whistles.

Beware of imitations if you are looking for a whistle. There are lots of metal whistles on the market, but only the Acme Thunderer is reliable and durable, with it's crispness of tone. A standard test for the Thunderer is to immerse it in a glass of water for a week. It must then work first time when removed.

A quick search for Acme Whistles on eBay will bring up police whistles, scout whistles, train guard whistles, referee's whistles and even occasionally World War I trench whistles.

The Rugby Ref has started collecting old Acme whistles, because there is nothing The Rugby Ref likes more than whistles and collecting.

So, if you've tried the rest, now try the best, get yourself an Acme....... Acme Whistles

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Rugby Ref's routine.....

When The Rugby Ref started out as a referee he never really got any advice on what happens, or what to do on a matchday.  He was just told to be at Old Fartonians for a 3 o'clock kick off.

But what do you do? What do you take?  For new referees The Rugby Ref will tell you his routine for a Saturday League match, it will vary slightly for midweek games, but the basics are the same.

The Rugby Ref's routine really starts midweek when he gets the call from the home club to confirm the game is on.  The Rugby Ref will take this opportunity to confirm a few things.  He will have already checked these things online and in the Society hand book, but it never hurts to double check.
  • What time is the kick off?
  • What colours are the home team wearing?
  • What colours are the away team wearing?
  • What is the postcode of the home club?
  • Are there any special directions for getting there? (The Rugby Ref knows of one club where the entrance is a driveway in between two houses, that looks just like the driveway belonging to one of the houses!)
The Rugby Ref will also look at the club websites to see where they are in the league relative to each other and if possible what the result was last time they met.

Saturday morning, The Rugby Ref gets up and has breakfast.  Nothing too heavy, maybe some toast, cereal or some fresh fruit.  The Rugby Ref usually has some jobs to do Saturday mornings, given to him by Mrs Rugby Ref.  It's important to get these out of the way early as you don't want to be rushed in your preparation for the match.

The Rugby Ref will have checked the postcode of the club on google maps to see how long the journey will take, The Rugby Ref likes to be there one hour before kick off and doesn't like to be late, so this is important.  He will have also made a note of the clubhouse phone number in case he gets lost.

Late morning, time for The Rugby Ref to check his bag.  It is kept in the back of his car just in case he gets a call at work, to go to a midweek game short notice, but it is still worth checking.  So in no particular order:
  • A variety of shirts in different colours, fluorescent yellow is the colour of choice.
  • Shorts, socks and a few skins and lightweight training shirts to be worn underneath in cold weather.
  • Boots (and a spare pair of boots under the seat in the car, just in case).
  • Towel, tie ups and spare laces.
  • Two watches, two whistles, notebook, cards, pencils (borrowed from a certain Swedish furniture shop).
  • Deep heat, cold gel, blister plasters, tape, Vaseline, ibuprofen and a variety of other medications, all designed to make The Rugby Ref feel young and fit!
  • Flags for touch judges.
  • Folder containing a selection of forms for sendings off, injury reporting, league rules, cup rules, etc.
  • Drinks bottle, some wine gums, some cereal bars, a banana and some Lucozade drinks (other drinks are available).
There are a few other things lurking about in there like toiletries and old banana skins, but the important stuff is listed.

The Rugby Ref will have a light lunch with a Lucozade drink and then change into his Society shirt, tie and blazer.  Being ex-Navy The Rugby Ref likes to look smart.  The Rugby Ref will then set off in plenty of time and arrive at the club at least one hour before kick off.

A little side note for the new referees first game here.  If you arrive at Old Fartonians to referee their 3rd XV, or extra C's one hour before kick off, you will probably be the only person there!  So leave it until about 40 minutes before kick off.

On arrival The Rugby Ref will seek out some official looking person from the home club and introduce himself, he will then drop off his bag in the referee's changing room and stick his head into the players changing rooms to see who has arrived.  At this point The Rugby Ref will remind the teams that he needs their team cards handed in before kick off.  Formalities out of the way, grab another Lucozade and sip it while having a walk out to the pitch to see what state it is in.  If anything obvious has been overlooked, like no white lines, a burnt out car in the middle of the pitch, or the posts have fallen over.  Now is the time to mention it, so the home club have time to do something about it.

With around 45 minutes to go The Rugby Ref will check that at least some of the away team have arrived, before he gets changed.  All ref's have their own little routine in the changing room.  The Rugby Refs is deep heat on the calves, one ibuprofen tablet, spare whistle and pencil in the right hand pocket, notebook and cards in the left hand pocket, watch on each wrist.  Pick up flags and water bottle and head out to the pitch with about 30 minutes to go.  If the teams are still in the changing rooms, find out what their plans are and where is the best place to do boots and the safety brief.  Most of the time this will be done on the field at around the 30 minute point.

The Rugby Ref will now have a gentle jog around the pitch checking lines are visible and correct, flags are all in the right positions, post protectors are secure and there is no glass or other dangerous objects on the pitch.  The Rugby Ref also checks both teams are out on the pitch.  Having ascertained the latter The Rugby Ref will approach the home team first (out of courtesy) and ask for the Captain. 

The Rugby Ref will ask the Captain's name and introduce himself.  The Rugby Ref likes to be informal on the rugby pitch and allows the players to use his first name.  The Rugby Ref's first name is "Sir".  The Rugby Ref then asks what number the Captain will be wearing, so he will know where to find him should he want to have a little chat at any point of the game.  "Skipper shall we do boots and the brief, then you can get on with your pre-match?"

Get the players to line up on a convenient line and check their boots for sharp studs and edges.  While you are doing this keep looking up to make sure they are not running round and re-joining the line, otherwise it's going to be a long afternoon!

"Front row and replacements, 9, 10 and the Captain please".
"Front rows, at every scrum I will make a mark for the centre of the scrum.  You will only hear four words from me then, Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage.  Please do each word as I say it, not before, don't try to rush me or race me.  Hold it over the mark until the ball is in, keep your feet out of the tunnel until the ball is in.  Clear? Good.
9?  stand on my right at the scrum, when I am happy I will step straight back, you will then put the ball in quickly and down the middle.  Quick taps, make sure you take them at the mark, or on a line behind the mark, make sure the ball leaves your hand or moves off the mark and always take it in front of me.  If I say wait, you don't take the quick one.  Clear? Good.
10? you are responsible for keeping your backs onside.  5m at the scrum, (from the back foot not the centre), 10m from the lineout.  You mark it out and get them set on you.  I will either give you a thumbs up or wave you back.  If I wave you back, I want you back at least another metre.  If the ball is held in the lineout I will raise my arm, keep your guys back 10m until I drop it.
Skipper do you want to come with me? we'll meet the away Captain and do the toss". 

Once The Rugby Ref has both Captains together he will remind them of their responsibilities.  "Captains your team's discipline is your responsibility.  I expect you to deal with anyone trying to tell he how to do my job, keep the chat down and ensure all questions come through you and only when the ball is dead.  Can you do that please?"
We then toss the coin "kick or choose ends?" and I check whether the teams are staying out or going back inside.  At this point The Rugby Ref will hand both Captains a flag and ask them to find a willing volunteer to run touch, this should not be a sub or the coach.

The Rugby Ref then repeat the procedure with the other team.

You will notice that The Rugby Ref gets each section of players, including the Captain, to confirm they have understood what they have been told.  This enables The Rugby Ref to remind them of this if things go wrong.  "I asked you to do this before the game and you said you would, so what's gone wrong?"

By now there should be around 15 or 20 minutes before kick off.  This is the time The Rugby Ref does his own warm up and gets his head in the zone.  While The Rugby Ref does his warm up he will run through some scenarios in his head (see my blog report "What do I do if....").  The Rugby Ref will also take the opportunity to remind the teams' coaches of the touchline protocol.

If the teams go back inside The Rugby Ref will go in as well.  The Rugby Ref gives both teams a knock at 5 minutes, then at 3 minutes he asks them to come out.  At 2 minutes if they are still inside The Rugby Ref orders them out "now please".  The Rugby Ref likes to kick off on time.

After the game The Rugby Ref always applauds both teams off the pitch and makes himself available in the bar, should the teams or coaches want to discuss any aspect of the game.  The Rugby Ref is always happy to discuss the game and his decisions.  He also gets the teams' Captains to fill in his referee's report card and signs the score card.

Now,.........are you ready for your matchday?

NB: The Rugby Ref is aware that this is quite a long post and he may have skipped some of the finer detail for the sake of brevity.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

What do I do if............

The Rugby Ref has been around the block a bit, fully paid up member of the "University of Life", 24 years in the Royal Navy, seen it, done it, bought it, caught it, photographed it, autographed it, got the T-shirt!

So when The Rugby Ref first stepped onto a rugby pitch as a referee instead of a player he stood tall, looked the part and exuded confidence.  After all The Rugby Ref had been commanding men for a large part of his naval career.  Thirty scruffy "Extra C's" from Old Fartonians weren't going to phase him!

Except that inside he was terrified of not knowing the law.  The Rugby Ref has since found that he was not the only person to feel like this at the start of their refereeing career.  It's what worries most new referees, what if I forget a law, what if I don't know what to do, What do I do if.....................

As a new referee The Rugby Ref carried his law book around with him everywhere.  As a bloke he especially liked reading in the loo!  But let's face it, it doesn't matter how much you love rugby (and Mrs Rugby Ref will tell you it is her main rival for The Rugby Ref's affections), The Laws of the Game (LOTG) of Rugby Union are never going to win prizes for their plot.  If you sit down to read it from cover to cover you are going to be fast asleep well before Law 2 which covers such scintillating points as "the air pressure of the ball at the start of play". **

So how do you learn the laws?

Visualisation is the answer.  The Rugby Ref does this a lot.  When you're in the car, when you're lying in bed, when you're just sitting quietly for a few moments; visualise scenarios in the game.

Let's start at the beginning.  Close your eyes and imagine the start of the game.  You can see the teams lined up on either side of the pitch.  The whistle is in your hand and the kicker is looking at you, waiting to kick off.  Hang on.....freeze the picture right there!  What sort of kick is he going to use?  Can he punt it, or must he drop kick it?  Come to think of it, what's the difference?

You pull out your trusty copy of the LOTG from your back pocket and turn to the definitions on page 4:

Drop kick: The ball is dropped from the hand or hands to the ground and kicked as it rises from its first bounce.
Punt: The ball is dropped from the hand or hands and kicked before it touches the ground.

So now we know the difference.  Then we look in the contents and find Law 13, Kick-off and Restart Kicks.

13.1 Where and how the kick-off is taken

(a) A team kicks off with a drop kick which must be taken at or behind the centre of the half way line.
(b) If the ball is kicked off by the wrong type of kick, or from the incorrect place, the opposing team has two choices:
To have the ball kicked off again, or
To have a scrum at the centre of the half way line and they throw in the ball.

OK, back to our visualisation, close your eyes again.  They are all still waiting for you.  You blow your whistle and wave for play to commence.  The kicker drop kicks the ball (mental tick) from behind the half way line (mental tick) and all the attacking team rush forward.  As you look along the line of attacking players you notice that the winger has jumped the gun and was 3 or 4 metres past the line before the kick off, not only that but the ball is heading straight toward him, he has gained an unfair advantage by not being behind the ball when it was kicked.  You put out your arm and call advantage (or maybe you don't, you are new after all), but the offending winger catches the ball.  Peep!  In your mind you see all 30 players stop and look at you.  They are waiting for you to tell them what happens next, they are waiting for your decision.  What are you going to do?

Back to Law 13:

13.3 Position of the kicker's team at a kick-off

All the kicker’s team must be behind the ball when it is kicked. If they are not, a scrum is formed at the centre. Their opponents throw in the ball.

............and so we go on:

What if the ball doesn't travel 10m?
What if the defenders pick it up before it goes 10m?
If it's kicked deep into the defenders 22 and the catcher shouts "Mark" do you give it?
What if it's kicked so deep it goes into in-goal and over the dead ball line?

Once you have visualised the kick-off to death, fast forward the visualisation to a tackle, then a ruck then a maul, then a kick forward.  Every spare minute you get close your eyes and think "What do I do if....?"

Be warned though, even when you know the laws inside out, the players will test your resolve.  They will challenge decisions you know are correct, they will sew the seeds of doubt in your mind, they will make you question your own decisions.  The Rugby Ref always has a copy of the LOTG in his kit bag.  Even now when The Rugby Ref finishes a game he sometimes goes back to the ref's changing room and checks on something from the game that troubled him.  Of course The Rugby Ref always finds out that he was right and the players were wrong.

Now,......... what are you going to do if.........

And don't forget that if you can't find the answer in your law book, ask The Rugby Ref by using the link on the right.

** 9.5-10.0 lbs per square inch, in case you were wondering.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Who's your Captain please?

How many times have you heard that question?

The Rugby Ref asks that question up to half a dozen times a week. Twice on a Wednesday at a schools game, twice on a Saturday at a club game and twice on a Sunday at an U19 game.

Of course, in a good team The Rugby Ref doesn't have to ask, because the Captain introduces himself when the referee arrives, this makes The Rugby Ref feel good. On the other hand, if he asks the question and the response is "who's Captain this week fellas?", then this makes The Rugby Ref feel sad, because he is in for a tough time.

So what makes a good Captain? It depends who you ask. Some would say a good Captain is a good organiser who can collect the subs, get the kit washed, make sure the team arrives at the right place on the right day, etc, etc. Others would say a good Captain is one who commands respect on the field and can inspire the players under him. So maybe each team should have two Captains? An on-field Captain and an off-field Captain! The really good Captains of course, can do both.

The Rugby Ref wants the Captain to be someone the other players will listen to. He wants the Captain to be someone who is proactive and sets an example to his team. He doesn't want the Captain to be the first player to start a fight, or the one who ignores his team's dissent or appealing. The Rugby Ref wants a Captain who, when told "your team are killing the ball at the breakdown, get them to stay on their feet, or you leave me nowhere to go", will actually speak to his players.

In short the Captain is the referee’s conduit to the team. They need to work together.

What is music to The Rugby Refs ears? The Captain who says "sorry ref, let me deal with it, it won't happen again", this Captain has saved his team a few penalties.

Are great Captain’s born or bred? They can be born, some men are just natural leaders. But not many, so most have to be trained how to lead. It’s not hard, the armed forces do it all the time, so why don’t rugby clubs and rugby coaches train their Captains to lead? A good Captain who takes notice of the referee, who communicates and inspires is a vital part of any team, so let’s train him in the same way we train the forwards to ruck and the backs to run.

Now,......... who "is" your Captain?

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

No new laws - I just need daylight

It seems I can't go to a single club or meet any bunch of players without one of them saying "what about the new tackle law then, how are you applying that"?  Even Premiership coaches have been heard to say it.

So let's get one thing straight.  There are no new tackle laws and we grass roots referees haven't changed how we referee them.  Premiership referees have been asked (told?) to reaffirm this area.

Let me explain what the law says:

There are four kinds of people at a tackle area:
  • The tackler
  • The tackled player (ball carrier)
  • The non-tackler (more about him later)
  • Other arriving players
If a ball carrier is brought to ground (one or both knees on the ground, on the floor or on another player on the floor) and held, he has been tackled.

If the man who brought him to ground also goes to ground, he is a tackler.

If the man who brought him to ground does not go to ground himself (i.e. stays on his feet), then he is NOT a tackler (I am going to call him the non-tackler), but a tackle has still taken place, because the ball carrier has been brought to ground and held.  (so we can have a tackle, without a tackler).

Anyone else arriving after the tackle has taken place is an "other player".

So what are we referees looking for?
  1. I want to see the tackler (or non-tackler) release the ball carrier and get up or move away from him immediately.
  2. I want to see the tackled player pass or release the ball immediately (there's that word again).  He must then get up or move away from the ball.
  3. I want to see anyone else arriving coming through the gate and staying on their feet.
Now that seems pretty straight forward to me, so where does the problem lie?  Well, there are two things there that both need to happen immediately, in reality we see them happen one after the other.  I want to see 1, then 2 happen immediately, but usually 2 can't happen until 1 has happened if you see what I mean.  Basically the ball carrier can't pass or release the ball if the tackler is lying on top of him!

Where the problem lies is that the tackler has been getting to his feet and then tugging at the ball, without ever having released the ball or the ball carrier (remember that as a tackler he does not have to come through the gate after he has released and got to his feet).  Everyone then shouts "he's holding on sir".  They are right of course, he is, but what was the first offence?  The first offence was the tackler not fully releasing.   

So this brings us to the current phrase of choice by many referees.  "I want to see daylight".  What they mean by that is that the tackler must release the ball and the ball carrier completely, while getting to their feet, before they then go back in to grab the ball.  If they do this and the ball carrier then fails to pass or release the ball, they will get their penalty for holding on.

Finally, remember the "non-tackler".  The man who brought the ball carrier to ground, but stayed on his feet.  Because he is "not" a tackler, he must come through the gate.  So if he is on the wrong side of the tackle area he must release and then come round the tackle area to come through the gate.  He usually doesn't do this so gets pinged for "coming in the side", or "not coming in through the gate".  Which usually attracts the cry "but I was the tackler"!

Moving forward from this we have the situation of "The Jackler".  I will save this for another post.