Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

More on rucking by David Clarke

Here is what Stephen Jones, a Smart Session user and main rugby writer for Sunday Times has to comment on the matter.


Stephen Jones debates the biggest issues in rugby union in his weekly e-mail

Wednesday, January 6, 2010. 1630 BST

Brendan Venter, the Saracens coach, had the air of a man on a mission as he took his seat in the media room at Vicarage Road last Saturday evening. His breathtaking 40-minute assault on the mess of the laws at the breakdown, the random interpretations, the frustrations, the lack of incentive for teams to attack – all of it was perfectly judged.

Frankly, I cannot bring myself to condemn him because his verbals were not contained in some hoary procedure laid down by the Rugby Football Union. Why should such matters be contained behind closed doors when they affect so many tens of thousands of people who form the paying and watching public? Are we supposed to banish from the debate the 14,000 people who went to watch the Saracens-Leicester match and witnessed such sporting poverty?

But as the debate rages on, let’s just take aim at one of Venter’s targets. Never mind about demanding that coaches shut up. What about demanding that referees shut up too? Venter savaged the fact that every player killing the play at the breakdown gets too many chances.

Under the guise of communication and preventative refereeing, the official issues a final warning – number one, roll away; number two, hands off the ball; number three, back onside. It is only if the offender refuses to comply with the referee’s instructions that he may be penalised. I recall one appalling case when a Munster forward was killing a ruck in a match against Clermont Auvergne and the official told the forward five times (repeat, five times) to roll away.

As Venter says, once the ball has been killed for just a second, even if the miscreant reacts to the referee’s warning, the ball has been slowed down and the defence is back in position.

Just as an experiment, why don’t refereeing officials tell their men to wrap up and to penalise the offence, without warning, as soon as it is committed. To hell with preventative refereeing, it is a cheats’ charter.

Referees, this is your final warning!

Brendan’s anguish

Here are the top five complaints contained in Brendan Venter’s assault on refereeing and the laws of the game, made last weekend (due to a space shortage, we have only been able to include a fraction of his complaints!)

1 . The lottery at the breakdown – Venter’s view, understandably, is that, instead of consistent refereeing we get a random and even alternate series of penalties, with referees choosing one from around 27 offences.

2 . Refereeing officials often agree with the coaches, not the referees. Venter revealed that, on at least two occasions this season when he has complained about refereeing of Saracens matches, he has been visited by officials from Twickenham, who have agreed that he had grounds for complaint.

3 . Venter believes, again quite correctly, that the incessant barking and shouting from referees to try to stop players offending is in fact a blatant cheats’ charter, giving all the killers of the ball two opportunities to desist.

4. He believes that the problem is chiefly an English one and that there is more consistency in the Super 14. Here, we can safely and completely part company with him, as all the problems he outlined are very much universal.

5 . He says that referees are not attentive enough to their duties in preparing for games. “We would study the last five games of our opponents,” he says. “So why should referees not be expected to watch at least the last three games that the two teams have played before they come along?”

Better Rugby Coaching


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Stop criticising referees ; would you really be happy if the referees stopped communicating with players? Would it produce a more flowing game? I don’t think so. It’s far easier to criticise, than to do something positive about the difficulties face match officials in the modern televised game. If Brendan Venter believes he can do a better job, then let him take up refereeing.

Comment by Conor Murphy

I agree wholeheartedly with Venter. I’ve always been of the belief that referee’s should get the two teams together before kick-off and issue instructions. Paramount instruction should be this-” This is your first and final warning, anyone handling or slowing down the ball will be given a yellow card and it doesn’t matter if it is in the first minute of the game or the last”. The referee should then ask all players do they understand the instruction so that they (the players) have no excuses if they are carded.

Comment by Rohan Fuller

The ruck or maul forms and the ref calls it out. The problem is that players don’t know the laws because they haven’t read them. Once the ruck or maul is announced by the ref that is their last warning and they should be penalised without any further prompting or warning from the official. Limit it to “release the ball” and “roll away tackler” and then penlise any offence without further warning.
My hang-up is players wandering around the sides of rucks and mauls, clearly offside and ready to disrupt any opposing move by having a yard advantage, but perhaps that’s another story!

Comment by Steve Harrison

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