With controversial officiating hogging the rugby headlines, the AOR team debates whether it’s time to increase the number of referees, or trim the lawbook.
Tank Lanning – More referees
Consistency is what most coaches ask of officials. Fair enough, but how about objective, correct decisions based on the black and white of the law book?
Subjectivity of officials asked to interpret the laws rather than just blow them as is, is a proper issue. Yes, simplification of the law book will definitely help, and it must happen, but I fear we have passed the point of no return.
Rugby has become a complex game, made more so given the laws being implemented around player safety. And the number of those are likely to grow.
And as long as we keep intent in the laws – surely vital – we are always going to need officials on the field, thus keeping some form of subjectivity.
So in order to keep it to a minimum, I say increase the number of eyes on the game. But in our high-tech, connected world, not all of them need to be on the field.
I’d start with a centralised TMO body sitting in a state-of-the-art multi screened facility overseeing all tournament specific referrals. With the same people overseeing all decisions, including those initiated by the TMO, we would get both better consistency and objectivity.
We could then empower said TMO group with policing the offside line – key to keeping space in the modern game – using a line superimposed on a few of their screens.
The touchlines could also potentially be policed remotely, allowing the AR’s to focus on the game.
On the field I’d have an extra specialised ref come on to officiate the set piece, and introduce a simple white card system allowing the skipper or coach to query two calls during the match.
Yes it might slow the game down initially, but players would soon learn to play according to the actual laws, and not various interpretations thereof.
Zelím Nel – Fewer laws
To be more precise, there should be fewer exceptions and sub-clauses. Though scrum penalties remain a source of contention, most would agree that it’s been much less so since we stopped expecting referees to discern the dynamic physics of the set piece.
By simplifying and streamlining the cues, the bloke with the whistle effectively watches to see which prop loses his bind first and then penalises that team. It doesn’t mean the decision is correct in every instance, but there’s a measure of consistency that coaches can plan for.
The same editing process needs to be applied to the rest of the law book. For example, it is illegal to be off your feet at the ruck – penalty. Instead of making exceptions because a ruck contest often collapses, enforce this law.
Therefore, the first arriving player that falls to the ground (before the ball is played) must be penalised, and where players from both teams go to ground simultaneously, the team going backwards is penalised.
This will result in a ruck contest that rewards ballistic force less than wrestling technique as the first arrivals inevitably occupy their time trying to put their opponent on the deck to win a penalty.
With this in mind, failure to successfully bind onto a ruck opponent is a penalty, no exceptions.
Make the offsides line run through the point of the tackle, regardless of how long the ensuing ruck is.
A player may not be lifted in the tackle, period. Body angles and landings are irrelevant. There’s a clear difference between being tackled off your feet and being lifted off your feet.
A tackler that makes contact with the neck or head of the ball-carrier at any point during the process has committed a high tackle. Penalty.
A ball that is closer to the try-line after it has been passed than it was at the instant the passer released it has, factually, travelled forward. Blow it thus!
OK, you’ve read what they think, now let us know which way you’re leaning, or join the #BigDebate on Twitter!