Whistle Talk - News from the British Columbia Rugby Refereesí Society
Published Tuesday, August 20, 2013
by Dave Pue, BCRRS

New Season Begins
Rugby in BC doesn’t really have an off-season anymore. This is especially true for the referees. Since the BCRU finals in May there have been 7-a-side tournaments, the boy’s and girl’s High School Tournaments, the National Women’s Tournament, 2 sets of Provincial Regional Championships for age grade players, the National Age-Grade Tournament, Provincial U-14 Tournament, National U-19 Tournament, Canadian Rugby Championship games plus numerous team trial matches and touring sides… all of which involved BC’s referees.

On top of this local action, BC’s elite referees have been busy on the world stage. Sherry Trumbull and Chris Assmus travelled to Russia for the IRB Rugby World Cup 7’s and the World Student 7’s respectively. Chris then went to the Stellenbosch Rugby Academy in South Africa for the IRB Talent Optimization Program. Chris and Dave Smortchevsky were Assistant Referees for some of the Pacific Nations Cup games. Bruce Kuklinski took part in the U-20 World Cup in France as a citing officer. Drew Sagar and Matt Gullen traveled to Southland and Wellington in New Zealand on referee exchange. Kai Taylor is preparing to go to September’s Aspen Ruggerfest hosted by the Gentleman of Aspen Rugby Club. Chris, Dave and Sherry will all be refereeing games in the Canadian Rugby Championships.

There are a number of new aspects to the BC season… new BCRU CEO, new requirements for referees and yet another set of Law trials for Law 20 (Scrums).The BCCRS would like to thank Jeff Sauve for his efforts in bringing the BCRU to a more “professional” level and financial stability. We appreciate his respect for the role of officials and the valuable assistance he has given the BCRRS over the years. We wish him all the best with the national field hockey organization… a supposedly non-violent sport where players get to carry weapons !

We look forward to working with Jim Dixon to continue the growth in all facets of Rugby refereeing in BC… the status of referees in the Rugby community, the number of young people involved in officiating and the quality of the officials toiling every Saturday of the season.

New Referee Requirements
To be a “carded referee” in BC, referees must be certified with a current IRB Official’s course and must be registered, through the BCRU, with Rugby Canada (just as the players and coaches are). The IRB courses are Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.

Most of the 593 currently certified referees in BC (NOTE: the large number !) have Level 1 certification. Of the approximate 100 certified referees who are members of the referee societies and officiate BCRU games on a weekly basis (NOTE the small number !) about 40% have Level 1, 60% have Level 2 and only a small number have Level 3.

This season the BCRRS has added new requirements for its members. Each year the members of the referee societies will need to complete the IRB’s on-line tests on the Laws of the Game and the “Rugby Ready” safety protocols. The members will also need to show their physical fitness for refereeing by completing a Beep test or 2400m run and a 40m sprint to the minimal standards set by the BCRRS.

These new requirements are not meant to prevent the participation of anyone interested in refereeing but are just another step in ensuring that referees are able to effectively officiate the “new” rugby being played in BC.

New Scrum Law Trials
The IRB has long been concerned about the state of the set scrum in Rugby, both from safety and playing points of view. The current front-row players are bigger, stronger and better trained, resulting in the “hit” (when the scrums engage) becoming more violent and destabilizing. The number of scrums that are re-set or result in a penalty because of twisting, collapsing or standing up has increased over the past years. Also, because referees were so concerned with the safety issues, other aspects of the scrum were virtually ignored… ie. the put in.

The IRB formed a committee to examine the scrum and on its recommendation, changed the engagement sequence a number of times… from “crouch and hold… engage” to “crouch, touch, pause, engage” to “crouch, touch, set”. The impacts of these changes were not totally satisfactory and so this season there is a new set of Law trials being tested worldwide.

The prime requirements in scrums are that they must be: a contest for the ball, safe, stable and square to the field. The Law trials hopefully will help meet these requirements.After making the mark for the scrum, the referee will say “CROUCH”, “BIND”, “SET”. As has been the process for several years, the referees will be looking to see specific responses from the players to these statements. To see that the players are responding properly, the referee will have a time-gap between each command… it won’t be “crouchbindset”. Referees will try to have a consistency to the speed of the cadence BUT only if players are responding well.

The Mark
Referees will be looking to see that the hookers place their (usually right) foot just to the left of the mark. This will ensure that the heads of the front-row players are offset enough that they cannot be “head on head”.

Referees will be looking for all players in the scrum (including the #8) to be bound to their teammates and crouched with their shoulders above their hips. The front-rows will be much closer than in the past… the front-row player’s heads (ears/temples) will be side by side with their opponents. There will little gap between the front-rows.

Before going further the referee will be looking for the scrums to be stationary and square tothe field (ie. the line through the front-row player’s shoulders at 90º to the sideline).

The props will reach forward with their outside arms and bind to their opponents. The binding required will be exactly the same as in the current Law… tight-head over top and bound to the back, side or armpit of their opponent loose-head and the loose-head underneath and on the side or back of their opponent tight-head. The tight-head cannot pull down or be bound on the loose-head’s arm. The loose-head must have a good bind on the tight-head’s jersey. The only real change here is that the binding will be pre-engagement (before the scrums come together).

Before going further, referees will be looking for: the scrums are stationary, the front-row players are properly bound, have their shoulders above hips, their shoulders and hips are square, their shoulders are not hidden under teammate’s arms and there is no pulling of opponents.

The scrums move forward and become locked together. The props must maintain their proper binding. All players must be a position to push straight toward their opponents once the ball is put-in. The scrums must push enough to maintain their “shape” but must not push enough to move their opponents back.

Before going further, referees will be looking to see that the scrums are stable and still square… ie no early push or wheeling. Referees will look especially to see that the front-row players keep their shoulders above their hips and their shoulders and hips square.

The Law has always required that the ball be put in straight [see Law 20.6 (d)… available at http://www.irb.com/lawregulations/index.html]. But in the past all #9’s cheated (OK, that’s a generalization… BUT true) and referees focused on other issues, so the ball was usually put straight into the 2nd row. With little or no chance to steal “against the head”, opposition hookers seldom struck for the ball and pushed early to disrupt their opponents clean possession of the ball. By removing the “hit” and its safety concerns, the Law trials will, hopefully, allow referees to focus on a straight put-in; foster a real contest for the ball.

The referee will tell the #9 when they can put in the ball ! When the referee is satisfied that the scrum is stable and square, they will say “yes 9”. Only then is the ball to be put in straight down the mid-line of the scrum. Teams will no longer be able to put the ball in as soon as the front-rows come together… a tactic used by smaller scrums who found themselves loosing the “hit” (which doesn’t exist anymore). If the scrum is moving or twisting the referee will not let the #9 put the ball in and may re-set the scrum or issue a free kick or penalty kick to the team disrupting the scrum. The #9 cannot delay too much in putting the ball in once the referee has said “yes 9”.

The scrum has always been an important part of the Game of Rugby Union… for those of us who played in the front-row, it was the ONLY important part. While there was some talk of removing the scrum from the Game, this would change the Game too much. The tinkering with the scrum will frustrate some people but hopefully allow this distinctive phase of play to continue safely and fairly. After all, there has to be a role for bulky people in the Game !


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