Tuesday 28 July 2009

The referee is a what?

I don't get too much touch line abuse as there are rarely more than the team substitutes on the sides. However, is it surprising that referee respect is falling when we have had a summer of high profile criticism of referees during the Lions tour from coaches, players and the news media.

Rugby: Ref quits over sideline abuse - Rugby - NZ Herald News

We are far from a tipping point just yet, but I thing we have moved on from the thin end of the wedge. We all know where it leads - soccer. The IRB needs to get tough with coaches and national officials who publicly criticise match officials. There are channels which operate behind closed doors; make sure they are used.
In the mean time, I am always happy to talk about my game over a beer in the bar afterwards.

Thursday 23 July 2009


Much has been said in recent weeks about the declining moral landscape in rugby. We’ve had the Kiwi crowd bottling the French team, a French player lying, Schalk Burger gouging, Bakkies being Bakkies, the arm band protest, Bath using something other than chalk for the white field lines and finally the Harlequins blood replacement scandal.

Aside from the Kiwi crowd, I would say that things have never been healthier in the game. Despite the protests from the media, illegal thuggery is much reduced than in times of old. How many wizened props or back-rows in your club have been gouged in their career, or cleared out a ruck like Bakkies, most of them I bet and they have returned the favour or retaliated with a good punch. The ’74 Lions 99 call would, today, have seen a couple or red cards, at least. It doesn’t happen at the top of the game and is been driven out the lower game because the tolerance of referees for such behaviour is zero.

There is potentially a problem, if lenient sentences are given out for things like gouging and the real shame is on the SARU for trying to defend Schalk rather than saying he’s guilty and asking the disciplinary committee to throw the book at him.

The Harlequins matter is a reflection of the fundamental spirit of rugby; cheating. No other sport I can think of has at its heart the idea of doing whatever you can get away with, playing the referee if you like. Props live for it, back-rows are admired for it, and centres run lines that are designed to confuse. Just because your arms are up, it doesn’t been you aren’t running back slowly on purpose, of course he was on his feet, he couldn’t release the ball any quicker. The list is endless and when you get caught you take the consequences but this requires HONESTY and that is what the SARU and Harlequins are lacking. Why this dishonesty? Its because the stakes are now so much higher. The clubs and Unions have money and power and the IRB must stamp its authority or risk loosing control of discipline and becoming as weak as FIFA and UEFA in soccer.

Harrison, like Matt Stevens, might have problems, but at least they have the honesty to admit it.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Ding, Ding, Seconds Out, Round Three

The 'edginess' of last weekend both added to and finally despoiled the game. Lets not remove that aspect of the game but ensure it is properly channeled. The problem is that the best referees currently are British and South African, hence ruled out of consideration at the Lions' request. Dickinson is as experienced a referee as ANZ can provide and should handle the tension better than Bryce and Berdos.

I will be highly surprised if there isn't a punch up in the first 20, and for this reason Irish and Welsh players can be expected to get the hat-tip ahead of the English in challenged positions. I certainly don't expect the Lions to finish second best in this aspect of the game on Saturday