I was lucky enough to play under some good refs – Dave Drew and Trevor Warman the best.
The referee is not a lawyer, judge or coach, he is the manager of a team of people who ensure that the game is played according to The Laws of Rugby.
Too often I am seeing the referee becoming too involved in the game. He allows players to contest his decisions when that should only be considered to be allowed by the captain. Even then, a captain cannot “contest” a decision. He may ask the ref for clarification to ensure avoidance of repetition.
Some coaches have said in the past that they do not consult refs, they want their players to play the way they (the coach) wants them to play. However, if a coach has read a law incorrectly, he may have exposed his team to repeated sanction.
It is my firm belief that the ref should visit team management before games to ensure that they know what he expects from him. If any Laws are in a current unclear state, that would give coaches a chance to prepare his team for that refs management of the Law. For example, the tackle/maul/ruck has recently been addressed by WR – how do refs see those various situations and what constitutes each of them?
Finally, the ref is an almost godlike figure and should be treated with great respect. Those that do not should be spoken to by their captain and if they persist in any abusive behaviour, removed.
I believe that the referees, as professionals, should be attending club rugby practices as part of their own training. They must rotate between clubs, no one referee being allocated to one club. They should referee the practice sessions where contact of any sort is included, including live scrummaging, lineouts, contact sessions, koppestamp, rucks and mauls. They should get involved in discussing technical issues during tactical planning sessions, and should be involved in post-match video review sessions.
The referees will gain valuable experience about the way the game is played, the players’ needs and wants, and the technical stuff that so many clearly do not understand.
Players will benefit by having the Laws clearly explained and enforced during practices and in simulated exercises.
I also believe there should be sever restrictions on who may talk to a referee, and for how long. The current Australian practice of querying every single blow of the whistle smacks of gamesmanship, a deliberate ploy to slow the game down and give their won players a chance to reset while denying attacking teams momentum. It must be stopped.
Arm waving scrum-halves should spend time contemplating their traffoc direction skills in the naughty chair.