Monday, 29 April 2013

Televised Match Officials and the Role of the Referee

The Rugby Ref was recently asked to collaborate with an article on injuries in sport.
The Rugby Ref has no connection with the firm concerned, but feels that anything that contributes to player safety is worth looking at.  The article below was submitted by Vicki Power.

Televised Match Officials and the Role of the Referee

The role of the Rugby referee is changing due to changes in the laws and an emphasis being put on player safety and health.

Concussion bin

Last year the International Rugby Board (IRB) introduced the Concussion bin in a trial period in the (then) Aviva Premiership. This allowed players who had sustained a collision or head injury to be assessed off the field. A temporary substitute is put into the game for 5 minutes while the assessment is taking place. If the player is fit and well, he can then return to the game. If he presents symptoms of a concussion he will remain out of the game and the temporary substitute becomes permanent.

Televised Match Officials (TMO)

In addition to the introduction of the concussion bin, the IRB allowed for more use of video technology during televised games. Previously, the video was used to assess whether a try had been scored, but the change allowed for the referee (in certain competitions) to consult the Television Match Official (TMO) with regards to foul play or personal injury, and also allowed the TMO to alert the referee of any incidents they may have missed.

There are mixed feelings on the use of TMO with some saying that it takes away the charm of rugby and the role of the referee and can be seen as a cop out on the referee’s part.

But, the results from the trial period appear, at this point, to be positive.
NB: The Rugby Ref says "anything that helps remove foul play from the game, and helps the referee make the correct decision should be welcomed, but the referee must remain the sole judge of fact and of law".

Referees have a great responsibility when they step onto the pitch. They must ensure that players and coaches comply with the laws of the game and that the integrity of the sport is upheld and that can only be assisted, at the highest levels, with the use of video technology.

Injury Surveillance Report

A recent report produced by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), highlighted the severity and frequency of specific injuries within the sport.

The study is commissioned by the Rugby Football Union and Premier Rugby Ltd and was first conducted in 2002. The study is now the largest of its kind and is used to assess professional rugby union injuries and training practises throughout the world.

Most Common cause of Injury

The report went into great detail of the causes of injuries during a match and what came out on top was Tackles.

The most common injuries to be sustained from a tackle are: Thigh injuries, knee injuries, other leg injuries and sternal injury to the ball carrier. Clavicle injuries, concussion and cervical nerve root injury to the tackler.

Tackles are all lumped under the same bracket, the report does not go into detail of illegal tackles or foul play, which explains the wide variety of injuries associated with this action.
NB: The Rugby Ref says "rugby is a collision sport and injuries are inevitable, but lets remove the dangerous and foul play, that produces preventable injuries".

Role of the Referee

When officiating a match, an additional role of the match officials, referee and coaches is to ensure the safety of the players. With the introduction of video technology to help rule and spot unsportsmanlike behaviour, illegal tackles and foul play, does this increase the responsibility placed on the referee? And, as a result, does this place more liability on the referee and the match officials when it comes to pointing fingers after an incident?

Robert Kitson , the Rugby Union correspondent was quoted in The Guardian in 2012:

“If a referee, or his assistants overreact in the heat of the moment it can ruin games and tarnish careers in an instant”
NB: The Rugby Ref says "referees react to what the players do, referees don't break the law or commit foul play, they merely uphold the law.  Let us be the best match officials we can be through training and assessments".

The increased usage of video technology will help ensure that overreactions don’t occur and will help result in a more agreeable and explainable decision, but will the extra liability that it appears to place on the referee result in the overall feeling toward the change being negative?
The Rugby Ref welcomes comments on this article.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Who gives a toss?

I always hear some conflicts around this point so I would love to know the truth. At coin toss what options do the winning team have, and likewise the non winning team.   
Thanks, Ryan.


This is a very simple law, but one that referees and players alike get confused over.

The law says:

6.A.3 Duties of the referee before the match
(a) Toss. The referee organises the toss. One of the captains tosses a coin and the other captain calls to see who wins the toss. The winner of the toss decides whether to kick off or to choose an end. If the winner of the toss decides to choose an end, the opponents must kick off and vice versa.

The winner of the toss will choose between "kick or choose ends".  Whichever they choose, the other captain gets the other option.

So if the winner chooses and end, the loser kicks off.
If the winner decides to kick off, the loser chooses an end.

The only option they can't choose is "to receive".  If they want to receive then they must choose an end.

Hope that explains it.

The Rugby Ref.

Ask The Ref

Ruck/Maul formed in goal? At our last match, the red team was attacking toward the blue teams goal and was within 5m for a good 1 minute. When a ruck on the goal line was turned over to blue. In the heat of the battle the ruck moved entirely into the in goal area with out much of the players noticing. When a red player finally realized this he ran around the "ruck" (really just a pile of players in goal?) and touched the ball down. The referee whistled him for offsides and blue assumed a penalty kick on the 5m, is this correct, can you have a ruck in goal and thus an offsides line?  In the same context a when a maul enters the in goal area does there remain an offsides line? 
Thanks, Ryan, New York.

Lets look at some law references

16.6 Successful end to a ruck
A ruck ends successfully when the ball leaves the ruck, or when the ball is on or over the goal line.

22.6 Scrum, ruck or maul pushed into in-goal
A scrum, ruck or maul can take place only in the field of play. As soon as a scrum, ruck or maul is pushed across the goal line, a player may legally ground the ball.This results in a touch down or try. 

So when the ruck moved into in-goal, the ruck ended.  When the ruck ended offside lines disappeared.
At this point we were basically in open play. So the red player (or any other player) can run round and ground the ball for a try.

With a maul, the defenders offside line is the back foot of the maul.  As the maul enters in-goal the offside line becomes the goal line, instead of the back foot, since the maul (and the back foot) don't exist in in-goal.  So defenders can stay alongside the maul as long as they don't cross the goal line (which is now the offside line).  What they can't do is go into the side of the maul from that position if they cross the goal line to do so.

The Rugby Ref

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Ball Out ?

I have seen and heard many variations as to when the ball is out of the scrum/ruck and is challangable, Some people say when the scrum half has both hands on the ball, some say when its lifted. Is there an official view?

Hi Alan

This is a question that referee's get asked a lot.  The official view, is the one in the law book.

A ruck ends successfully when the ball leaves the ruck, or when the ball is on or over the goal line.

(a)  The ball comes out.When the ball comes out of the scrum in any direction except the tunnel, the scrum ends.

Unfortunately the official (Law Book) view is anything but clear.  What is the definition of "leaves the ruck"?  They don't say.  So it is down to the referee's interpretation.

The best advice is to ask the referee for his definition of "ball out" before the game.

The Rugby Ref says "The ball is out when it leaves the ruck, that means beyond the back foot of the breakdown, or lifted off the floor".

Thanks for the question.
The Rugby Ref.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Stud legality

Can you please tell me if these stud are legal for match day?


Those studs look perfectly legal to The Rugby Ref, what makes you think they might not be?

The key question with studs is "are they dangerous".  No kinds of blades or studs are banned, as long as they are not sharp or burred (or exceptionally long or wide, see IRB regulation 12).

You may find some useful information on the RFU website here:

There is a question about blades, where it explains the IRB regulations, explains that they are legal and why.

Please post a comment if you have further questions.

The Rugby Ref