Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

What players can learn from being a referee by David Clarke

Read this article first.
TV pundit and former Lions hooker, Brian Moore decided to learn to referee and managed to pull a muscle in his first game. He was definitely a poacher turned gamekeeper. But he was brave enough to put himself in the firing line. Perhaps he might have tried it as a player…I wonder whether he would have played differently.

Now, the naughty Sebastien Chabal is to referee some games himself. My first thought was that few would argue with his decisions. Well, for the first five minutes anyway. After that, he will find that the referee is only a human and will be prone to mistakes. Many a referee will tell you that they may make fewer mistakes than any player on the pitch yet they will be picked up on the smallest error.

A lion in the lions’ den. Will there be tears? I don’t think so, but I do believe that Sea Bass may be a little more careful in what he says in the future.

Better Rugby Coaching

Three of the easiest ways to help win games by David Clarke

Make sure you have done the easiest methods of winning games first, before sweating over the hard stuff.

1. Referees return
Straight after the game, always thank the referee AND do so enthusiatically. Make him want to come back to referee your team. This positive attitude will reflect well on your team and you. Referees want to work with positive teams and will give them the leeway to play and act positively. Build this over the seasons.
2. Plan your substitutions and injury replacements
In the heat of the game, an injury can cause untold disruption if there is not clear plan. It only takes a couple of minutes before the game to write out the possible substitutions and replacements.
3. Remind the players about the first minute of the game
You know what you are doing with your own kick off. You should also know what to do with a kick off receipt. These are the last words to the players before they take the pitch: what we do for the first moments of the game. It takes a minute to remind them and that focus can set the tone for the whole game.

Better Rugby Coaching

New maul law interpretations at the lineout by David Clarke
May 12, 2010, 12:12 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , , , ,

Here is a good review of the law interpretations at the lineout from Gary Gold, Springbok assistant coach.

See his website at

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New style refereeing for a fairer contest? by David Clarke
March 31, 2010, 9:44 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , , , , , ,

Writing in this month’s International Rugby Coaching, Paddy O’Brien, the IRB referee supremo, believes that rugby will be back to its old ways of a fairer contest.

He identifies five areas where he has got his referees to work harder at applying the law:
1. The maul at the lineout: no blocking.
2. Offside at the ruck.
3. Rolling away from the tackled played and/or releasing him to play the ball.
4. Better scrum engagement.
5. Keeping onside from the kicks.

Early evidence suggests that there is more space for attacking teams, but they are still adapting to the new regimes. Referees too are making a slight transition. The laws are not new, just being more heavily emphasised.

As Paddy says, one metre or one second of extra space and time can make all the difference in the game of rugby.

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Richie McCaw turns over a new leaf by David Clarke
February 2, 2010, 10:55 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Refereeing, Rugby Training | Tags: , , , , ,

Richie McCaw is apparently keen to clear up the roles in the breakdown. It will be interesting to see if this works out. He plays hard and as close to the law as he can. That’s his right to do so until he is penalised.

Here is a good article on what he is saying from Planet Rugby:

Crusaders captain Richie McCaw hopes referees will be consistent in their application of the new breakdown laws during the upcoming Super 14 season.

The All Blacks skipper and flanker has long been a master in one of the most troublesome areas of the game, but is looking forward to the new emphasis on favouring the side in possession.

“It’s going to reward players who are really accurate. Perhaps when players are almost on their feet, or getting up there’s a wee bit of grey area there and some refs would allow you (to play the ball) and some wouldn’t,” he said.

“They’ve said they’re going to be pretty strict on it so unless someone who is really accurate gets in and contests the ball, the team with it will keep it and be able to play.

“It’s all good in theory it will just be interesting to see how it goes.

“Technically, it would require the ball carrier to do everything right, and that should allow some good rugby to be played.

“Teams that are really accurate and figure that out how to get their breakdown right will be the ones that do pretty well.”

But McCaw also warned that teams will not be afraid to play a tighter game when the situation demands it, although he does hope to see plenty of positive intent when the season begins on February 12.

Better Rugby Coaching
“There’s times when that’s not possible (running the ball) but you have got to have other things up your sleeve. I think if all teams have that sort of attitude and I know all the guys in teams around New Zealand certainly want to play like that,” he said.

Dan Carter is the villain by David Clarke

Dan Carter high tackleFew will have escaped the news that Dan Carter has been cited for a high tackle on Welsh replacement scrum half, Martin Roberts.

Roberts was pretty circumspect about the incident afterwards, unlike his coaches, who railed against the referees decision. Anyone who knows Roberts will not be surprised by his comments. He is a bright player, who thinks deeply about the game.

As for Carter, he continues to be masterful on the pitch. From a coaching point of view, he attacks the gain line. He does this in two ways. First, he sometimes runs at it. Starting flat he accelerates at angles so defenders have to go with him or the defenders either side of him.

Second, he pushes the ball around the field from boot or hand, but always into dangerous places. It is rare that either Carter or the next All Black player who touches the ball is not causing peril for the defence.

Though not as destructive as Jonny Wilkinson, Carter is a fine tackler. Which makes the tackle on Roberts all the more interesting. He went high. There is no doubt that he was aiming at the ball. In the speed of the game, as Roberts dipped slightly, the arm slid over the ball and hit the head.

Dan Carter is not a dirty player. But he did tackle too high. It should have been a yellow card because it was a significant intervention. In the speed of the game, the referee missed it. It was in the middle of the pitch, so the touch judges missed it.

He should not be banned. It was a mistake at the time which should have been punished.

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Refereeing is a thankless task, despite the thanks by David Clarke
October 6, 2009, 8:49 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , ,

rugby referee l plate

I don’t referee every week. Perhaps every couple of weeks plus some practice games.

Normally it is my son’s team, who are Under 10s, and the other week, a Welsh Women’s training game.

Every referee in rugby gets thanked after the game. Perhaps through gritted teeth, but at least there is some thanks. Wayne Barnes, one of the RFUs international referees, told me that it is good to discuss the game afterwards in a friendly manner over a beer. It is a sort of soothing process because not everyone agrees with your decisions.

I am not battle hardened as a referee. I am sensitive to my mistakes. However 16+ years of refereeing kids’ rugby (plus basketball, football, netball and hockey) have taught me to remain fair, not try to even up decisions and referee what YOU see, not what others tell you.

The two other Under 10s coaches for my team and I are bias. The trouble is we are bias to the other teams. I suppose it is because we are either teachers, or an ex teacher in my case.

And that’s why it is a thankless task. Because during the game we don’t try to give our team any quarter, and perhaps are a little less stringent on the opposition. So when a mindless parent or over excited coach shouts something about our decisions, it is very frustrating. No amount of “thanks” at the end can prevent the heart racing a little when you hear dissention from the sidelines.

Here is a great video from the FA to watch on the matter.

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