Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching


Should we pity the rugby referee? by David Clarke
August 11, 2009, 8:30 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , , ,

rugby referee
First, before I even start, we need to remember we are all in this together. Without each constituent part of the game, we would not be able to even venture onto the pitch.

Does that mean that refereees should be free of criticism? Of course not, and I don’t know many who would say otherwise. On the other hand there is a time and place for criticism, just as there is with the players.

I feel a certain amount of pity for referees at the moment. The new season in the Northern Hemisphere is almost upon us and watching the New Zealand club competition, I see plenty of interpretation.

There are new laws in place, and emphasis on others. The referees at all levels are under pressure to get these areas correct AND the normal laws of the game whilst the players and coaches are conspiring to outwit both the opposition and the referee.

In fact some referees will admit that some laws will be refereed hard in the first few months and then things will revert to the old ways.

That is not the only problem. Speaking to some coaches over the weekend, referees at the lower level are not so well informed. So whilst the coach and team might be playing to the current rulings, the poor old (and young) referee is struggling to cope with the old set of laws.

I suppose patience is a particularly useful virtue. It is a tough dish to swallow when you are losing a spicy game to some rotten decisions.



Why the Lions selection is a reflection on the referee by David Clarke

There are two issues in world rugby that most vex coaches at the top level: the breakdown and the scrum.

Each referee interprets the breakdown differently. Many commentators say that referees “guess” the infringements at the scrum engagement.

Therefore you need to pick a team that will win the game given what the referee will do, and not necessarily what the opposition will do.

The Lions have picked a front row that will scrummage, but not destroy the South Africans. What is the point of destroying a scrum if the referee ignores this and resets the scrum every time.

They have picked a pack that will get to the breakdown quickly, so there is less chance of the ball being stolen.

So though the likes of Gethin Jenkins (loosehead) and Wallace (openside) have been on great form, their selection meets those criteria perfectly.

Better Rugby Coaching



A rugby moral code will never happen by David Clarke

Mike Tindall torn shirt

What is acceptable and unacceptable in rugby?

Some coaches will condone cheating because they know that it allows their team to win. Some coaches will condone pushing the laws to their limit because it allows their team to win. Some coaches will forgive referee’s mistakes when it benefits their side, because it allows their team to win.

Moralising about rugby is what the governing bodies do. Play safe, play fair is the message they are duty bound to tell us. And quite rightly so.

But in the reality of a league match, international fixture or a youth cup game, what coach is not going to find themselves in a moral dilemma about whether to bend the rules a little bit.

“If I don’t do it and the other team does, and we lose, what then?” is a well worn excuse. However, it has some validity.

The law of the game and the law of the rugby jungle work closely together. Though we don’t see too many pictures like that of Mike Tindall these days, plenty of players and coaches will tell you that stopping a player lying over the ball is tough in the modern game. A helping of “shoe pie” will remind a player not to be there next time.

The law of the rugby jungle is about tough love. Physical pain against the whistle of the referee. But this attitude will not make players stop transgressing in the future. Jungle law is about punishment after the problem, and does not make prevention an option. “I will continue to lie over the ball until I get thumped and then I will stop” won’t make for a better game.

It would be much better if players and coaches didn’t cheat in the first place. It is like a game of bluff in the bar after the game. Who is going to pull out of it first. The team that decides to be whiter than whiter will probably lose against the team that continues to cheat. Who is willing to take that risk?

Better Rugby Coaching



Rugby referees are rare beasts by David Clarke
November 17, 2008, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , ,

I have spent the last 72 hours picking my way through some seemingly obscure rulings in the IRB rugby laws.

At the same time I have watched four internationals and refereed two games of rugby, plus fielded a couple of refereeing questions.

My conclusion is this. We need rugby referees and we need to look after them.

A “rare beast”? They are rare because of the abuse they receive and thus many are leaving the game. And they are beasts for lots of the connatations you would care to put about them, some good, some because we feel sorry for them and some because they are by no means perfect.

Forget the “bias”, the incompetent, the outmoded and the “non scrum” expert charges. This is why we need to protect the rare beast:

1. The ELVs are different in different parts of the world. How hard is that for an international referee!

2. The interpretations of the ELVs are changing every couple of weeks.

3. The definitions of the breakdown are blurred.

4. The law enforcers are confused, so what hope the players.

5. Too many ignorant people make sweeping remarks when they have poor knowledge and understanding of the game.

6. The error count for players in the game is much bigger than the error count of most referees. The onus is on the referee though should he make even one mistake. Unfair?