The IRB referees’ supremo Paddy O’Brien has read the riot act to his ten referees ahead of the forthcoming World Cup.
Although confident in the ability of his ten selected officials, O’Brien admits that across the board, referees have “let the foot off the throat” in certain facets of the game. Following the introductions of new laws around the breakdown, tournament organisers are impressing their wish for a departure from the games filled with kicking which were prevalent in the 2011 World Cup.
Citing the recent Tri-Nations, northern hemisphere warm-up Tests and Super Rugby, O’Brien outlined certain issues which need to be addressed. “We have been asking our guys to revisit the five key areas,” he said. “We think they started with really good intentions last year, but the foot has come off the throat, especially at the tackle – the tackler rolling away and the entry – and especially the offside line in close.”
“The 20 teams at the World Cup all received the same presentation and they have bought into it. What we’ve got to do as referees is make sure we implement them. While the refs have done some of them very well, we think as an overall picture … we need to reassess them.”
And O’Brien’s five key areas are:
The breakdown – the tackler must roll away and assist tackler must release the player, while arriving players must come through the gate from the back foot.
Foul play – Referees must start at red and work backwards in the instance of high tackles, grabbing and twisting of the head and tip tackles.
Mauls – the ball-carrier must be available to be tackled.
Offsides – consistent and strict policing of offside players around the breakdown area and players in front of kicker must remain stationary onside.
The scrum – Referees must quicken the sequence of the four calls “crouch, touch, pause engage”. O’Brien expressed the need for the loosehead to have his head and shoulders above hips and the tighthead must bind on the body of his opponent rather than the arm.