Referees must police changes
Watching the Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Crusaders and the Blues (above) and specifically the breakdown it was instructive to note how referee Paul Williams interpreted this aspect of the game. There are a plethora of trial laws being implemented in the competition but one area World Rugby has been keen to de-clutter is the breakdown.
Players have been instructed that the tackler must roll away in an east-west direction, or towards the touchline, and that referees will be very strict in penalising players who clearout or come in from the side at rucks and also that the defending team must be “clearly” onside at the breakdown.
Television camera angles can be deceptive but the “clearly onside” instruction appeared to be less rigorously policed. Both teams shaved the margins to a point where more players appeared offside than onside.
It’s impossible for a referee to see every encroachment, so there is still fine tuning required in terms of the interaction of the three match officials. World Rugby is keen to give the attacking team a little room to breathe in trying to ensure a better spectacle but no matter how many law alterations are proposed or adopted, the way they are interpreted and officiated is the ultimate arbiter of any successful change.
As in Top 14 where former Leinster outhalf cum centre Noel Reid appears to be headed. According to French media reports he has signed a contract with Agen after refusing to sign new terms with Leicester.