Back off, touch­judge

The ref­eree needs more au­ton­omy, writes BBC com­men­ta­tor and reporter Chris Jones

Rugby World - - RUGBY RANT HOT TOPIC -


TheRe Is lit­tle doubt that rugby union has never been a harder sport to ref­eree. Play­ers are not only quicker and stronger but ar­guably more street­wise, while coaches are con­stantly look­ing for ways to ma­nip­u­late the ex­ist­ing laws of the game.

the ‘jackal’, the ‘choke tackle’ and the ‘ fox’ (no-ruck tac­tic) are just three ex­am­ples of mod­ern- day play­ers and coaches find­ing loop­holes in the laws and ex­ploit­ing them.

Yet the ref­eree still must re­tain his or her author­ity as the main ar­biter of rugby truth and jus­tice.

thanks to the New Zealand Rugby union, us me­dia folk for­tu­nate enough to be cov­er­ing the

Lions tour are treated to an ear­piece through which the ref­eree’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions can be heard through­out a game. Not only the ref­eree but the whole of­fi­cials group – as­sis­tant refs and tele­vi­sion Match Of­fi­cials

– are also clearly audi­ble.

It’s a con­stant din, with the artists for­merly known as touch­judges pro­vid­ing a com­men­tary to the ref­eree. and while their in­put is no doubt use­ful to the whistler in the mid­dle, it all feels a bit much.

For the Lions test matches and warm-up games, World Rugby have loaded their of­fi­cials teams with the best of the best, with top ref­er­ees also run­ning the line.

But is this part of the prob­lem? surely a top ref­eree wants to be do­ing just that – ref­er­ee­ing? Isn’t a Nigel Owens or an an­gus gard­ner go­ing to be tempted to high­light things the ref­eree hasn’t seen, to the point where their help ac­tu­ally be­comes an in­ter­fer­ence for the match- day ref­eree?

as a re­sult, too many big calls are be­ing made by as­sis­tant ref­er­ees, un­der­min­ing the ac­tual ref­eree in the process. While it would be back­wards to re­sort to hav­ing as­sis­tant ref­er­ees just to run the line, there has to be a bal­ance.

at the mo­ment it seems like there are four ref­er­ees out there, and it is be­com­ing con­fus­ing for both play­ers and sup­port­ers alike.

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Do­ing his duty Wayne Barnes runs touch

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