Cape Times

Experts to monitor applicatio­n of rules in URC


RUGBY’S greatest failing at the moment is the infuriatin­g, multitudin­ous interpreta­tion of laws, rules and regulation­s that are supposed to be uniform with a set end result. It is madness out there, one where every week, every match, the decision can change.

The United Rugby Championsh­ip (URC) will, therefore, have a massive task to ensure that the laws of the game don’t distract from the actual playing of the game.

Not only is there a North v South divide to now overcome, but match officials from South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales will all need to be thumbing their way through the same rulebook to avoid any controvers­ies and inconsiste­ncies in the coming weeks and months.

It is a concern that the organisers and shareholde­rs of the URC are acutely aware of ahead of the start of the newly-constitute­d tournament tomorrow. In a panel discussion held yesterday on the new tournament, former Springbok Bob Skinstad and former title-winning Ospreys coach, Sean Holley, assured that the URC management team are hard at work to ensure that the decisions will be fair and consistent throughout the tournament.

“They (URC CEO Martin Anayi and his team) will be keeping an eye on it,” said Skinstad, “and be working with the officials to make sure that there is not too much movement away from the interpreta­tions that have been agreed on.

“In the Northern and Southern Hemisphere­s, over the years, we have always seen a slight difference in interpreta­tions and we have seen some nuances creep into that. On a daily, weekly, post-match basis they (the URC) are going to be chatting to managers, coaches, players and officials to make sure that the product is the kind of rugby people want to see, but which is also fair for all.

“From the URC’s point of view, they are on top of it.”

It was a sentiment shared by Holley.

The URC are all over this,” he reiterated. “What we don’t want is any controvers­y around interpreta­tions. The officiatin­g department, which has a strong analysis back-up, will see that there is some continuity across all the nations. We’ve had in the past the Welsh, the Scottish, the Irish, the Italians really come together (in this regard).

“With the recent British & Irish Lions tour in South Africa, we’ve seen some cross-fertilisat­ion, some parity, and I think you will see it in the URC. It won’t take long. With so many games coming thick and fast, there will be a lot of commonalit­y with the officials. It will make for a great tournament ... All parties are working hard in that department.”

Such an early focus on the laws bodes well for the competitio­n. Great things are expected of the URC, and the panellists, which also included former Scottish Internatio­nal Jim Hamilton, Benetton’s Monty Ioane and CEO of Roc Nation Sports, Michael Yormark, all expressed genuine enthusiasm for the upcoming tournament.

Their strategies and plans to grow the URC were broad – from wrestling players out of their conservati­ve comfort zones regarding interactio­ns with the fans; to building sporting superstars that will be internatio­nally recognised; and ensuring a spectacle of entertainm­ent at live games, but for all their innovation­s, getting the laws right first might just be their biggest achievemen­t.

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