Whistle Talk - News from the British Columbia Rugby Referees' Society
Published Tuesday, February 11, 2014
by Dave Pue, BC Rugby Referees Society

As memories of Christmas and New Year’s fade slowly, it’s time to begin to plan for the return to playing the Game We Love… the spring season begins soon.

Please forgive the length of this issue… a number of topics were left over from the fall season but new ones have popped up.

First some sad news: Don Whidden (from Alberta) passed away on Monday February 3, 2014. He had been hospitalized with severe respiratory disease. Don was a person who wore many hats in the Rugby refereeing community: referee, referee coach, referee educator, leading member of the Alberta Referee Society executive, IRB citing officer among others. All of his efforts were be sorely missed. The referees of BC send their thoughts and prayers to his family; wishing them peace and strength at this difficult time.

The global trial of the “newest” scrum laws continues. Referees’ experiences during the fall, with the “newest” engagement sequence, were generally positive. Scrums were safer, had fewer re-sets and were open to a new level of competitiveness. Hookers actually had to HOOK !!

Teams with good technique could win the ball against the head. For the 1st time in many seasons, I heard a captain’s complaint that the opposing hooker had his foot up at the put in.

Some reminders about the way in which referees are to handle the engagement:
- after the referee makes the MARK
- Hookers are to put their right foot just to the left side of the mark
- Front rows are to be square to the field (at right angles to the touchlines)

- When the referee says “CROUCH”:
- all of the players in the scrum must be bound
- #8 must have their heads between their locks hips
- the front rows bend at the hips and are at the same level as their opponents
- the heads of the front rows must be between the heads of their opposite numbers
- all players in the scrum must be stable and stationary

- When the referee says “BIND”:
- the props will bind on their opposite numbers
- tight head over loose head’s arm and on the loose head’s back or above their arm pit
- loose head under the tight head’s arm and on the tight head’s back
- the heads of the front row must be “ear to ear” with their opponents… ears are side by side
- the gap between the scrum’s front rows is only about 10cm
- all players in the scrum must be stable and stationary

- When the referee says “SET”:
- the scrums come together while maintaining their level and binding
- everyone’s shoulders must be above their hips
- all players in the scrum must be stable and stationary
Once the scrums are bound together and stationary the referee will give the scrum half permission to put the ball into the scrum. In the fall season the signal to the scrum half was the verbal “yes 9”. The IRB has recently, at the highest levels of professional Rugby, instituted a new Law Trial. Instead of saying “yes-9” the referee will give a non-verbal sign to the scrum half that they may put the ball in. This is an attempt to deal with the scrums using the “yes-9” as a signal to begin pushing.

The IRB has left it to the individual Rugby Unions to implement the new Law Trial. Rugby Canada is implementing the following protocol for referees to follow:
1) When on the non-put in side of the scrum, referees are to initiate eye contact and point to the scrum half as an indication to put the ball in the scrum.
2) When on the put-in side of the scrum, referees are to initiate eye contact and point towards the tunnel as an indication to put the ball in the scrum.

It is essential for the referee to begin the management process with the two scrum halves prior to the start of the match. They are to outline the process and ensure that both scrum halves understand the protocol.

After the referee has signaled, the scrum half is to put the ball into the scrum without undo delay. Scrum halves have taken to tapping the ball against the hookers hand before putting the ball in. This quick action is not undo delay. There is increased vigilance on the “straight” put-in. The intention is that there must be possible for the opposite hooker to attempt to win the ball. In the time between the referee saying “set” and the ball being put in, the scrums must remain stationary. Any twisting, shuffling sideways or pushing early will result in a reset or penalty.

Only once the ball is put in may the scrums push.

These are unfortunate by-products of Rugby and injuries that are becoming more and more know to have long lasting and devastating consequences.

Referees’ vigilance against high tackles, dump tackles and coaches training good techniques at tackle, scrum and ruck phases are vital to lessening the chance of a player being concussed. It has become apparent from the latest medical advice, that accurate diagnosis of concussions and the need for injured players to rest completely away from the Game are keys to mitigating the damage from a concussion. The IRB has created a web site (http://irbplayerwelfare.com/) dedicated to many aspects of player welfare but especially concussion…. Information on symptoms, treatment and Graduated Return To Play are found on the site.

Last year the IRB enacted a procedure to deal with concussed players. It involved a player leaving the pitch for a 15 minute “head-bin” assessment by a doctor. As the presence of a doctor was required for this procedure it was not implemented by Rugby Canada for the regular leagues of Rugby played… just for international matches.

In the past weeks the IRB has published a set of guidelines for dealing with players who are concussed (or suspected of being concussed) in games where there is no approved medical personal present. (see the link to the document through Rugby Canada:

The principles of the guidelines are that players, who show symptoms of being concussed, must leave the field, not return to the game, seek professional medical assistance and follow the GRTP protocols.

The procedures and how these guidelines will be implemented in Canada are to be decided by Rugby Canada and the BCRU… discussions are underway at this time. Everyone has a duty of care toward injured players. Many of the guidelines involving the monitoring of the injured players and their Graduated Return To Play are under the control of the players, clubs and BCRU.

However, the BC referees have decided that they will implement their part of the guidelines beginning immediately. Given the possible life-long consequences of concussion injuries, the referees feel it best to err on the side of caution.

So, if a referee strongly believes or suspects that a player has been concussed, they will require that the player leave the field and will not allow the player to return to that game. This policy will be especially be adhered to in school games.

Insurance for Referees (and its implications for clubs and schools)
Insurance is something we pay for and hope we never need. We can go through our whole refereeing career without ever having the “unspeakable” happen. However, if something devastating happens, that is then we want to have coverage.

The BCRRS has recently sent out some information to its members discussing the need to have insurance coverage for injury and 3rd party liability. The referees have been encouraged to seek professional expertise and to not referee games where they have exposure to risk without adequate coverage.

Referees are concerned with 2 forms of insurance: medical (referees do get injured !) and 3rd party liability (ie. to cover the referee’s lawyers fees if a they are named as part of a lawsuit following an injury during a game…player A sues player B but includes the referee in the lawsuit). Some of a referee’s insurance coverage comes from their own personal insurance and some through policies bought by other organizations.

The referee’s registration with Rugby Canada brings with it some medical and 3rd party liability insurance. However, this insurance requires that the clubs and players all be registered with Rugby Canada (through the BCRU) and that the game is sanctioned by the BCRU. The regular season games are sanctioned but at times clubs are lax about getting sanctioning for “friendlies” or touring sides.

The referees of some school games (mostly school provincial championships) are covered by a policy through BC School Sports. Referees of most regular season school games are covered by a policy through the BC School Protection Program. The issue with the BCSPP is that it gives referees coverage ONLY for games played at BC Public Schools. Games played at BC independent Schools are not covered by the BCSPP insurance. So the referee has 3rd party insurance coverage if Collingwood plays at Earl Marriot but not if Oak Bay plays at Shawnigan Lake.

There have been discussions about options to ensure coverage for referees when officiating at independent schools.

The BCRRS decided that the best option was to have the independent schools add the members of the BCRRS as named insured persons on the school’s existing policies. At this time the following schools have added the members of the BCRRS to their insurance policies: Brentwood, Collingwood, GlenLyon Norfolk, Shawnigan Lake, St. Georges and St. Michael’s University. The BCRRS is still waiting for confirmation from: Immaculata Regional, Mulgrave, Southridge and St. Ann’s Academy.

Foul Language
During the fall season the BCRU received several complaints from members of the general public about the amount of foul language they heard while watching Rugby games.

As these incidents negatively effect the public perception of Rugby, the BCRU has asked the BCRRS to have referees become more aware of the issue and to deal with incidents. Blatant foul language and trash talking of an opponent have always been considered infractions of Law 10.4 (m) (unsportsmanlike behaviour against the spirit of the game).

Referees are to actively manage such incidents and apply sanctions if needed.

When is The Ball Out of a Ruck
This is the most common question asked of referees before a game starts. At a recent meeting of the top referees in BC, the following became the consensus… The ball is out of a scrum or ruck when:
1) the ball moves out from under the players in the ruck/scrum… old adages: if the ball has eyes and can see sky… if a bird can poop on the ball… etc. Also when there is no bound member of the ruck/scrum over the ball.
2) the person clearing the ball from the ruck lifts the ball to pass it. (Some leeway will be given during age grade or low level games.)

Yellow and Red Card Reports
There will soon be new on-line red and yellow card report forms available on the BCRU web site. Referees will be able fill in the report on line by typing in the boxes. When the report is finished and submitted the referee will see a screen confirming that it has been received. The report will automatically be sent to the BCRU Discipline Committee. A copy will also be emailed to the referee for their records.

A separate report will need to be sent in for each red card issued. Up to 6 yellow card reports will be able to be included in a single form.

If a red card is issued on the advice of an assistant referee, both the referee and the AR will need to fill out and submit a form. Both should indicate in the comment box, the AR made the recommendation.

The link for the new forms will be made available soon.

CDI Coach’s Referee Reports
A reminder to the coaches and managers of CDI games to send in their reports/critiques on the referees of their games. These reports will become a part of the referee’s assessment and grading (along with the report’s from the referee’s coach of match official).

The number of reports sent in the 1st half of the season was very small… too small to be useful to the referees. The link for the referee reports was sent out last fall. If a coach or manager does not have the link please contact me. (dpue1@shaw.ca)


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