Down with ref-talk!

Brendon Shields

We have reached a point in rugby where the actual game is no longer the main talking point once the final whistle blows. Instead, rugby is now called ‘ref-talk’.

After 80 minutes of play between 30 men on a field, we talk about the ref. That is basically what it has come to.

I was totally shocked a week ago after the England game to hear Jean de Villiers and Nick Mallett go off like two schoolgirls at the referee and the sheer injustice of what they had just witnessed (when discussing Owen Farrell’s tackle). “What makes me angry is that players and coaches can lose their jobs and their careers as a result of these decisions!” barked Jean, with Nick edging on his mood, both at the ready to grab their pitchforks and storm the castle.

Predictably this week Nigel Owens is a fan-favourite in SA, while in France he is the reason they lost. Similarly England lost because of Jerome Garces and the Australians are fuming over the Welsh breakdown tactics that refs were too blind to spot. In television studios, former players and coaches like Jean and Nick are given free rein to fuel the fires of ‘ref-blame’, with a willing public spreading the message far and wide on social media.

Fans take screengrabs of the rugby event to prove their point. Former players are happy to distribute these without a disclaimer that referees have to make decisions in real time. There is no acknowledgement that in real-time, many of these events simply do not warrant a second look. However, you will not see fans of the winning team distribute too many of these ‘still frames’.

For example, in the game against France there is clear evidence of Pieter-Steph du Doit entering the ruck from the side when France was on our line in the last minute. If France was awarded the penalty they would have won the game and South Africans would be focusing on the high tackle on Cheslin Kolbe.

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At schools and club level ref-talk has taken root over the past couple of years. At the VKB week in Reitz this year I witnessed parents from the Free State region shout abuse at the ref literally each time he blew against their team. The coach of the same team was barred from the field during one game because of all the sideline abuse he dished out, only for one of the parents to walk across to the ref and start another altercation. The behavior of the coach and the parents was simply pathetic and one felt sorry for the poor players who were there to play a game of rugby.

I wonder if Jean and Nick (and Rassie Erasmus with his video after the Farrell tackle) realise that their behavior gives license to anyone in rugby to have a full go at the ref each time the decision does not go their way? What kind of environment are we creating for young players when we as parents and coaches blame the ref if we lose? What lessons about life in general are we instilling with this message that our failure can always be blamed on someone else?

What irks me the most is that these highly-paid and respected individuals do not give us a balanced view by also outlining the myriad of instances where the referee decision favours our team. Instead they just fuel the flames, knowing full well that negative energy attracts a larger viewer audience.

It’s all gone too far and I pledge anyone reading this to take deep stock of your own attitude. Are you still watching and enjoying rugby, or have you been sucked in by ref-talk? Do you understand that without a referee there is no game? Can you acknowledge that your own players make 30 times as many mistakes as the ref, in any given match?

I love the game of rugby because there are 31 human beings affecting the outcome. There are so many variables at play, of which referee interpretation is but one. However, if my team loses I can only blame the 15 guys wearing my jersey, not the guy in the middle! These are the values I learnt from my dad, whose generation still listened to games on the radio.

Imagine if today’s studio pundits had to broadcast on radio – listeners at home will basically think there is only one person on the field – the evil ref!

Down with ref-talk. Let’s reclaim the values of our game while there is still time.

FRESH TAKE is an initiative to identify, feature and develop talented rugby writers who are not yet part of the mainstream media. If that sounds like you, send us a sample of a story you’d like to write to info@alloutrugby.com

Brendon Shields is the developer of Matchday, a player performance database for schools rugby. Follow him on Twitter @brendonshields 

- Brendon Shields

Let's chat

  • Chris Mouton

    There’s one major problem with this sentimental old-way-is-the-best-way article. These days there are TMO’s and technology. The major gripe with the Farrell tackle was that DESPITE the TMO and technology, Gardner made the wrong call. Of course there are minor infringements from both teams. It’s always been like that. Blatant offenses need to be punished fairly and consistently. That’s all we want.

    Regarding school rugby, you have passionate parents supporting their kids. Of course people will be bitching about the ref sometimes. It’s been like that when I played as well. People are also willing to accept more often than not that it’s amateur rugby with amateur refs. It’s where things become professional where we need to start holding people accountable.

    • nezo

      Beautiful Chris Mouton. well said

    • Gary

      I agree – in his dad’s day technology was not available rugby was an amateur sport – I personally think not enough was said of that tackle – it was dangerous and should never be allowed – these guys are getting paid good money to get it right .they do make mistakes but when after seeing an incident replay still make an wrong discission – it’s more to do with them being to scared angering the crowd than missing the play

      • Thomas

        Totally agree with this comment. Sometimes the crowd has more power than the Ref. And to anger the crowd is basically a death sentence from that country’s audiences.

    • Blue Peter

      The referee should NEVER EVER be abused. End of story.

      Referees (and the IRB) should be accountable for their performances.

      In the old days we didn’t wear seat-belts, and doctors never made mistakes, even when they did. But the world has moved on. The game is now professional: not only are players careers involved, but there are fortunes in advertising rights on the line.

      There needs to be more accountability.

      Getting it wrong in real time happens. The better the ref, the less that happens. Getting it wrong when there are replays available is just not acceptable.

    • boyo

      100% well said sir!

  • Brendon Shields

    Hi Chris, thanks for the reply. My point is that the wrong call is bound to be made in every single match. That same wrong call is likely to be made 30 or 40 times by players. If you are happy to glance over players butchering passes and missing line-outs, then be as lenient towards refs. The call on Kolbe was wrong in my opinion, but because we won we hardly heard a peep about it. All I ask for is a bit more perspective and a little less biased anger.

    • Ian potgieter

      Brendon… You cannot compare the players to the Ref.. Two different entities. The Ref is there to limit mistakes and promote fairplay and discipline and this he does this with the help of two onfield line referees and a third umpire with first world technology and unlimited time to replay any incident pointed out to him or otherwise noted… And they still get it Wrong !!! The players do not have this luxury as a line out throw or a tackle not done correctly.. Oops let us do it over correctly.. No only one chance and carry on with the game.. Therefore the Umpires must take Resposibility on field.. I agree the Ref can miss something or make a mistake.. But he has the right to stop play and check!!

    • Matt

      My major concern with incidents such as the SA vs England one has nothing to do with the result, but rather the alarming precedent it set moving forward, highlighting the only consistency in rugby’s rules unforcement is the inconsistency thereof.

      These things are just not good for the games international image.

      As a father of a son who plays, all my reaction has to do with is cringing about what’s coming next season, when the boys who get to see it as being ‘legit’ considering World Rugby haven’t said anything to contrary at all.

      Good luck policing things in the lower lvls when World Rugby won’t step up wrt these sorts of incidents at the highest lvl.

    • boyo

      Thanks for the article Brendon I don’t fully agree but I enjoyed reading your view.

    • Harry Boyle

      Brendon. Referring to the Farrell incident the ref had the technology to make a informed decision yet he didn’t use it to its fullest extent. Most True Springbok supporters do not blame Gardner for losing that test.
      The refs have the technology use it. Don’t even let me start on forward passes, skew put in at the scrum, entering the ruck from the side. Backline offside.
      Apply the rules consistently and if they can’t, get some who can or make the rules simpler. If a fan with a smart TV and smart phone can highlight the mistakes why can’t the officials get it right. All teams break the laws because the refs allow it,,

  • Brendon Shields

    No worries boyo! What is your view?

    • boyo

      I agree about the amateur part where people are taking their cue from the pundits to criticize Ref’s and abuse them at all levels.

      Where I differ is that the level of scrutiny at the top has got to be there.

      Players mistakes are also scrutinized and they are often treated very harshly because of them. I also don’t agree that pundits are required to be 100% balanced in their view or portrayals of referee’s or players. The time they are afforded only allows for certain key decisions to be looked at and the audience they speak to is bias.

  • Matthew

    There’s a saying “you’ve made your bed now you must sleep in it” I didn’t need Nick and Jean to tell me what was clear for all and sundry to see, and I applaud them for highlighting to!. Cause sadly if a player or coach does it they’ve brought the game into disrepute and could face sanctions, refs get away with far to many eye wateringly obvious foul play, that it takes away from what should be good test rugby or even domestic cups, and sadly world rugby turns a blind eye towards those refs instead treating them with kid gloves rather then docking them where it hurts.

  • Barry

    Brendon, as Chris has alluded to, there is a vast difference between making an on field split second error and quite another having an on screen slow-mo and then circumventing the TMO to make a favourable home ground decision! Tell me, why did Glen not want feed back from the TMO, it was after all a game changing decision, was it not. He got it horribly wrong, there were obviously no arms involved and he made that decision on slow footage.
    World rugby have not responded to this, yet they found it necessary to respond to the off sides call against England Vs New Zealand – how come one and not the other?
    You also mention the Kolbe incident. Why was a penalty try not awarded? There was a very obvious high tackle on Kolbe. This was reviewed several times in slow-mo, but Glen missed them all!
    I do not subscribe to referee abuse but in these instances he more than deserved what he got!

    • Whinger

      Are all the referees now called Glen? Is that a new nickname for a referee? These two Glens were different guys. The one was an Angus and the other was a Nigel. Should we not call them all Angus? No, we’ll take your cue. Cute. From now on the referee is “The Glen.” It serves Jackson right. He deserves to have all bad referees named after him.

      • Barry

        Fair comment, I prefer Agnus, but Glen will do. Lol.

        • Whinger

          I really think “Glen” is appropriate. Angus is a skelm. Glen Jackson is really clueless. So much so that he often disadvantages his home sides.

  • Brendon Shields

    Hey Barry, good feedback and good examples.

    I do not argue that those calls were not wrong and slightly dodgy. All I want is for people to acknowledge that in no way shape or form can you say any ref decision is a game changing event. Players get hundreds of chances in a game to settle the score. If a ref gets it wrong 2 or 3 times in a game, it cannot be the refs fault? Why are you in that position? I remember in the Ozzie world cyp game where Bryce Lawrence became enemy Nr 1, despite Fourie Du Preez twice not passing to a man in space with the try-line beckoning?

    Also, while you rightfully argue that the pro game is different – people still bad-mouth ‘the ref’ – something that school players then think is normal behavior.

    • Rich

      Hi Brendon, the problem here is at the elite levels (as in any sport) seconds, and inches make all the difference.

      For example, 5% difference in Usain’s Bolt time would relegate him out of the medals table. Is rugby any less elite? This notion of we should never be in the position to let that one decision determine the outcome of the game, is a complete fallacy. In football where we will all agree the laws are subject to far less interpretation a single ‘wrong’ offside call is often the difference between the worlds best. At its highest levels, tiny margins make all the difference.

      A 5% error on the penalty count (which is only 1 penalty) how is that any different? And the game of rugby where a penalty in your oppositions 22 has for more value then say one on your own 10-meter line, is worth more than a 5% difference.

      Refs should never be abused (end of). But they should be held accountable, in the same way, we are all held accountable if we do a rubbish job. Bryce Lawrence should never have been allowed to pick up a whistle after that disgraceful performance.

    • Chris Mouton

      Unfortunately I have to disagree with you. The ref can make a huge difference. Just look at the Scotland vs Australia in the 2015 World Cup Quarter-final. Joubert made a massive mistake, which cost Scotland the game and semi’s. Kieran Read’s shoulder charge on Francois Louw also comes to mind. Farrell’s tackle on Esterhuizen. These are game-changing decisions. Everybody makes mistakes. I understand that. Players get penalized and/or carded when they make mistakes. What about refs? World Rugby just keeps mum…

    • Greg Shark

      Really have to disagree with you. While the players for various reasons obviously can be the cause of a lost match, the ref by not blowing according to the laws can turn a match, cost the game. I need not refer to anything else but Garcia YC against Bismark and ultimately a RC that turned the game for the AB and against the Boks. Even the 2nd YC was a very dodgy call of leading with the forearm….

      • Whinger

        Bad refs are called “Glen” from now on Greg (Barry said so). That yellow against Bismarck was brandished by Romain Poite, not some other guy called maybe Garces, not Garcia. To avoid confusion, we will in future call the ref “Glen”, in honour of Glen Jackson, a singularly clueless ref.

        • Greg Shark

          sorry….got the name wrong…it happens please forgive me, I’ll
          NEVER do it again!

        • Barry

          Stay with us, Greg, try and stay with us! Lol

          • Greg Shark

            doing my best but you fellas are just so quick with the wit!

    • Barry

      Sorry, but no I don’t agree. Referees do most certainly make game changing decisions – I am talking primarily at professional Rugby here. How could Glen have overlooked the Kolby high tackle – for Pete’s sake, my wife called it and she’s not a highly paid professional referee! Remembering, this was in slow-mo so he had ample time to consider it. So it begs the question, why then did he over look it. Is it just that he is a crap referee, or was he intimidated by the crowd, or was he in favour of one team over the other. It is one of these reasons, and none of them are honourable!!

      We also need to wake up a little to the fact that we are in an era of “Professional” sport. There is huge money at stake, not only from a team perspective, but probably more so on Sports betting. We have seen how players are lured into the net in cricket, so lets not be naive, this is probably already happening in Rugby.

      You can see this in Super Rugby, as we get close to the play off’s, the New Zealand sides start posturing, in a fashion that it is clear who will be going through and who won’t. Similarly in South Africa, some may recall the strange calls made in the 2017 Quarter-final between the Lions & Sharks, when Van Wyk was taken out off the ball which avoided a winning try for the visitors. It is always debatable, and water under the bridge, but that decision could have cost SA rugby/ the Lions Union around twenty million rand on gate alone, if the penalty trie was awarded. Sharks would have gone on to play the semi’s in New Zealand (no home gate) and the Lions would have been out! I am not saying anyone necessarily deliberately cheated, but you have got to appreciate that there was enormous pressure on the ref to get a “good” South African result!

      The only way we really have to counter this is by Public Pressure!

    • John Comyn

      Brendon bear something in mind. With the Farrell incident, the call did not come from Gardner (slap bang in front of him) or the TMO but from the touch judge. Any self respecting referee would have given the penalty immediately in real time. He would then have gone to the TMO to decide on the sanction. A perfect example was when Faf flew into the french guy. Mrs Doubtfire immediately blew the penalty for late and dangerous and then got the TMO’s take before decided if Faf should get a card or not.

    • boyo

      I think a Ref’s performance can be game changing just as much as Fdp not passing can be. Yes there are lots of factors influencing a result but in Rugby the ref is one of them. Thats an issue with the rule book.

  • John Comyn

    Brendon these are professionals and they are well paid. As has been said a thousand times, people’s careers can be affected. I get just as upset when my side are advantaged by a bad ref. Nobody likes winning unfairly! However I do agree that supporters are bias by nature and we need not bet petty about the odd wrong call. It’s going to happen. But as the guys above point out blatant cheating when you have all the facts is unacceptable and needs to be highlighted and the ref sanctioned. I don’t see Jean De Villiers as a cry baby but he was rightly outraged by the Farrell incident.

  • Jean-Pierre

    I feel that it has gone this way because refs are not accountable for their blatant bad call, there is no repremand or discipline in the public eye!
    Coaches are not aloud to criticise the refs or they face disciplinary action from WRU.
    Also if a player blatantly makes a bad call he is cited and band for a few games.
    Why not the same for refs?
    Why was WRU so quiet about the situation there was no apology to the player who nearly had a career ending tackle, there was no apology to the fans of the game for such a huge error!
    I feel refs need to be held accountable as they are also a player on the field.
    That would sort out the hecklers and the mess that is refereeing at the moment!

    • SweetAz

      Yep,—Unless you own up to a problem it can not be fixed. WRU needs to be transformed, it is no longer fit for purpose.

  • Terry D

    Interesting presective but rugby is now professional not social. I think the game needs to be controlled by the ref alone, with input from the lineout refs where things are seen by them that the ref has missed. However when the ref and assistant ref are in doubt, it should be referred to the tmo and his call should be heard. What was wrong in the England game was that the tmo was called upon but the ref failed to let him say his opinion. The tmo may have ruled ‘arms were used’ but the player was off side prior to the tackle and awarded a penalty. As for the france game, the assistant ref should have made a call if the ref missed it. The ref could have allowed play to continue until the next infringement and then gone back to look at the assistants call. It would not be correct to stop on the assistants call as France may have scored anyway. I’m not saying it’s easy to be a ref but it seems like there is no consistant pattern and confusion seems to be the order of the day with everyone having their say. Players as well. That brings me to couches. They should watch the game and make changes only. Instructions from couches via water boys and medics should be stopped. Set your game plan and let the players play.

  • William Botha

    Brendon, most fans can agree on a couple of factors; refs are professionals, technology is available that could make their decision-making more consistent and that they are fallible. Just like the players themselves. What everybody is missing, and by ‘everybody’ I mean critics and supporters, administrators and refs alike, is that their consequences, the impacts on the ref, are not visible to the fans. We have no clue about the quiet threatening chats that may or may not occur in the hallowed halls of World Rugby, we can’t see their scorecard. So what do we do? We rant and rave, froth falling off the corner of our lips.

    A simple solution would be for World Rugby – and all national associations – to share their measures of the ref and their performance! We see the players stats, don’t we? We check our team’s ranking on a weekly basis. But the ref’s stats? Opaque. We don’t see the number of errors made or an analysis of penalties awarded by nation, or even win/loss ratios by nation, by ref. All we see is when Craig Joubert – rated as the world’s best at the time – screws up a Cup game, he stops arbitrating top level games, gets shunted off to Sevens and gets a sinecure a couple of years later. Do you blame the Scottish fans for complaining?

    We have to drag the refs performance out of the realm of opinion and into the fields of facts. One of the facts is that their performance does affect the outcome of games. Another fact is that there are technologies available to the modern day game that can make their job easier. Why are we not using it?

  • Willem van Breda

    Hi Brendon, you are fortunate to be able to use AOR in order for people to read your blogs. Problem is that some of us do not have that kind of platform to view our opinions so the only way for us is to enjoy the fact that people with actual rugby experience like Nick and Juan are making comments on a platform such as Supersport which many rugby fans fervently support. These comments were made as a direct reaction to foul play and in order to make known what we as supporters without any platform have witnessed, a blatant disregard of safe play. I see you are involved in schools rugby also, are you then approving of this foul play? If someone close to you has a son that plays rugby and gets dangerously shoulder charged, would you not feel anger towards the ref for not blowing something like that?
    In my opinion its called fairness, some parents are one sided and act like hooligans on the sideline, unfortunately it could be that their parents did the same and that is why they dont view sport as a fun activity and sportmanship is not their number 1 priority. With all that said, i think there are more people with the same view as Jean and Nick than what you might think..

    • Brendon Shields

      Hi Willem, I am grateful for AOR giving me a platform to list an alternative view.

      I am far more engaged in schools rugby than I am in pro rugby, which for multiple reasons I do not really follow anymore.

      My fear is that in a culture that says a ref is to blame for a team losing, there won’t be any real winners. At schools level this is already a huge issue.

      Jean and Nik having a go does not really help the problem. Tbey get to vent their frustration for a few minutes and get the entire nation riled up. But they do not bear responsibility for a culture of ref baiting and the general disregard for the man in the middle.

      All I ask for is for a bit of perspective. How do we solve this? Defenitely not by casting all refs as cheats and creating an environment where if you lose you start taking stills to show why the ref cost you a game.

      • Whinger

        Brendon, do you really think “the nation” only got riled up AFTER listening to Nick and Jean. We were pretty riled up on the spot, when The Glen made the bad call. If the studio commentators dared to try and take The Glen’s side, they would certainly have been drawn and quartered for it. We are fed up with commentators trying to explain things away by pretending The Glen was right. We like listening to Nick, because he calls a spade a spade and he does not treat the viewers as though they had never watched a rugby game before.

        • nezo

          ahhhh Whinger you are the best

        • Whinger

          Nick probably also calls a Glen a effing Jackson.

  • Shaun

    I like the way the all blacks handle bad decisions as happened at the end of the 3rd British lions test
    They didn’t complain too much and said it happens to all teams and that decision decided not just that game but the series

  • Chilli

    One of the things I love about rugby is that the players on the field still respect the referee and his/her decision – unlike football!
    I am okay with the ref missing the small things (they’re human!) but I do feel though that there has to be more accountability for poor referee decisions, and that the referee fraternity should be grading (world ranking system?) and paying refs according to how well/poorly they managed the game. Refs will be more aware of their performance and actually take the time to make the right decision (even if it is unpopular). This will negate the rants to a large extent as well and also enhance the respect that the general rugby fraternity has for referees.
    On ref abuse, there should be harsh sanctions for anyone (players, coaches and parents) abusing a referee, we don’t need football mentality in the game.

  • SweetAz

    Once again most people are running around trying to cure the symptoms,–ie. bad mouthing refs and the culture of negativity and click-bait articles around it vis a vis the impact it had on the result.

    This is all just noise.

    To cure the disease you need to fix the cause,—which is bad or inadequate referees and the systems that are letting them down, be they technology/assistants/TMO. So how do we go about this?

    With any problem the first step is to admit THERE IS A PROBLEM, then you go about instituting systems that will address the problem, followed by a MEASURE OF ACCOUNTABILITY where referees and their decisions are judged by an independent body allowing ONLY the cream of the crop to rise to the top and get WELL PAID for their efforts.

    This will prevent all the Glen’s of the world from ever having the temerity to referee anything above school level breakdancing.

    As can be seen, World Rugby is failing on all counts to address the issue so the bitching/moaning and negativity will never end.
    Q.E.D.

    • Brendon Shields

      Odd thing that most people reckoned Jackson had a great game ‘up to that point’. So if there was a grading system he probably would have passed it?

      • SweetAz

        Personally I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jackson have a “great game”, he seems to have very little clue as to what’s happening in the scrums,- I live in NZ and even here a lot of people don’t rate him as a ref. In fact, of all the Antipodean refs the only one that’s barely adequate is Agnes Gardener,–and she’s been slipping lately as well ;-)
        Ben O Keefe is just Godawful.
        It’s a thankless job, I know,-but if they were well compensated it would attract more and better candidates to the pool. Together with some accountability, it would go a long way toward cutting down on the controversies.
        Although, thinking about this a bit I thought that perhaps this problem is societal and a product of the decline we see in mores and values throughout society. A guy named Bastiat summed it up with this quote, “When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe.”
        So, this behaviour is simply a symptom of a much bigger malaise.

        • Greg Shark

          your last para was exceptional – well done!

  • Keith

    Nice on Brendon. When the Boks receives poor decisions we cry foul; when other teams is on the receiving side the refs are top standard. These old rugby players cum guru’s must be consistent on the rules and less bias on the team they shout for.

  • Maciej

    Hello folks, Brendon – very interesting point that you make and I totally agree that referee decision is not to be questioned on the field of play. I don’t want to see rugby players acting like soccer playeres running to the referee when the decision goes other way. However, to question the referees after the game by the pundits is totally different story. We, the rugby fans around the world demand that the referee is consistent. If Farrell’s tackle was legitimate, what was wrong with Faf’s challenge in Paris?? He was already commited to the tackle, there was no way he could have escaped from crushing into the French player. Or for that matter Bismarck’s red card when he took out precious Dan Carter?? South Africans fans can be quite mad durinng recent years and the calls made by the refs. One thing that needs to be clear – referee appointments during the World Cup games. You mentioned Bryce Lawrence as no 1 enemy in SA for his ruling at the breakdown during quarterfinal in RWC 2011. How can you appoint Kiwi ref to the game where the next possible opponent for the All Blacks will be South Africa, the only team at that time with regular wins against them (3 wins in 2009 home and away, one just before the World Cup in PE). It’s obvious All Blacks don’t want another disappointment in RWC on home soil and face Boks in semi final. I know, it probably sound like a conspiracy theory but refs need to be consistent and rule the game within the spirit of rugby.

  • Jay

    Reading through these posts and speaking to many rugby fans I think what people are seeking is consistency, plain and simple. If you get a wrong call here and there so be it but at least try to be consistent.

    Imagine trying to be a goal kicker with moving posts, which is what many coaches and players must feel like with referees interpretations.

    I am not one to blame a ref for these mistakes as I agree with what you have pointed out; it is a highly pressurised and difficult job to do. Add in 50k screaming fans and it becomes even more of a daunting task.

    I do however, blame World Rugby. Controversial decisions are nothing new. You have cited a number that span over years but what steps have World Rugby taken to improve the resources available to a red to make the right decision. Take any other sport and look how they have embraced technology to ensure fair play and ease the burden on the referee as an example. Why have we never heard or read of World Rugby following suit?

  • George Polly

    As Clinton vd Berg says “If you accept that players themselves have largely embraced the professional game and its demands – they practically live in the gym and are walking automatons – the same can’t be said of refereeing.
    Rugby’s biggest handicap surrounds decision-making, but referees don’t appear to have caught up to this reality.
    Almost every weekend we see matches decided on an official’s whims, with “interpretation” of the laws providing leeway as wide as the Grand Canyon.”

    Agree 100%. It is total BS that refs get away with absolute shockers and home-town decisions, and you are looking at rugby with misty-eyed Mills and Boonery of the days of yore. You are either a professional or you’re not, you can’t cherry-pick areas of professionalism that you like and intersperse with old-school traditions. Mallett is 100% correct.

    It is the fault of “World Rugby” who sit in their ivory tower, having ruined the game I grew up with. Take for example the demise of “self-policing” i.e good old fashioned RUCKING – the unwritten law that allowed players to use their feet to move opponents cluttering up the tackle area – has made life infinitely more difficult for referees. Refs must decide whether numerous criteria are fulfilled while keeping an eye open for the dangerous clear-out, boots on bodies, ball-killers, people going straight to ground and others entering the fray from the side. Yes, it’s that easy.

    It’s time officials, including the “old farts in blazers” became professionals because they have ruined the game.

  • Derek

    To add a slightly different dimension to the conversation. I think it is worth pointing out that technology has changed a hell of a lot since the days when rugby was listened to on the radio.
    4K Ultra HD TV that will often show the same incident from many different camera angles gives the average viewer a huge advantage over the referee when it comes to making the right call.
    The absolutely, mind bogglingly bat shit crazy part is when the ref. refers the decision to the TMO, watches on the big screen from the half way line with the crowd baying and then doesn’t allow the TMO to make the decision!
    That should be a red card offence for the ref.

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