Competition – Sunday tickets for World Club 7s this weekend at Twickenham

Twickenham Stadium will be hosting a major new 7s tournament this coming weekend (17th & 18th August) as the growth of the game accelerates towards Olympic inclusion in Rio in 2016.

Refblog has 2 pairs of  tickets up for grabs for you to be able to get down to the home of rugby, Twickenham Stadium, this summer, to be loud and proud, make as much noise as possible  and cheer on Quins and Saints (who be representing England) in the first ever  World Club 7s Tournament!

The new World Club 7s brings together, for the first time, some of the biggest names in club and provincial rugby from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, together with some of the emerging names in the 7s game. There will be a family friendly, summer carnival atmosphere.

The 12 teams competing in the tournament include top Aviva Premiership Teams Harlequins and Northampton Saints as well as the winners from this year’s J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s.  They will be joined by the likes of the DHL Western Province and Vodacom Blue Bulls from South Africa, Auckland from New Zealand, the ACT Brumbies from Australia, and Buenos Aires of Argentina. They will also be competing against teams from America, New York and San Francisco and VVA Moscow Region and Kuban Krasnador from Russia, as the established and emerging rugby worlds meet.

To be in with the chance to win a pair of tickets for this Sunday final day, answer this question by DM on Twitter – @Refblog – or by email to

Nigel Owens recently became the most capped Welsh international rugby referee. But who did he take that mantle from? 

Entries by Twitter DM or email before midnight tonight (Wednesday 14 August). Winner will be drawn at random. Please include a contact number so I can call you tomorrow with the good news!

Hi 5 Stadium

You can still buy tickets for the weekend’s rugby at

More details at:

UPDATE – Thursday 15th

Congratulations to Julian Rainford for getting the correct answer which was Derek Bevan, who won 44 international caps in an illustrious refereeing career. Nigel Owens earned his 45th cap earlier this summer.  Have a great day at the World Club 7s Jules!

Concussion – what’s our role as referees?

Occasionally I am approached by people to collaborate on articles or sponsored link. Usually rubbish commercial stuff so I don’t, but the following was suggested by a company working for a firm of personal injury lawyers*. Some interesting thoughts for us officials and certainly an area I think will be more important focus at grass roots level in the future, particularly when we see the outcome of this inquest in Ireland following the tragic death of 14year old Benjamin Robinson [see update below]. Thought provoking stuff.

Concussion Bin for Aviva Premiership and how referees can help protect players

Earlier this year, RefBlog highlighted rule changes proposed by the IRB in relation to Television Match Officials (TMOs) and the increased responsibility they have in terms of assisting with on-pitch officials during a game.

At the same time, however, a change that was not mentioned was that the IRB also introduced a trial run of the “Concussion Bin” for all Aviva Premiership games for the current season. This may have already been noticed by spectators at games this season, where a player is allowed to leave the field if a member of the medical staff or the referee feels it is necessary following a hit. The player in question will then remain off the field until they have completed cognitive tests to determine whether they are fit to return to the game. A temporary substitution will take place for the time the tests are being conducted and it will be made permanent if the player fails the cognition tests.

Impact on the sport, players and officials?
Firstly, it enhances the importance placed on player well-being and ensures that appropriate measures are taken to prevent the “second impact syndrome”. The second impact syndrome occurs when there is a second hit on an already concussed brain; this second hit is more likely to cause severe, permanent damage and even death.

Rugby players are regarded as warriors on the field; there is unquestionably a physical element to the sport that does not exist in many other sports. Impacts of some tackles have been likened to being hit with a force, similar to a car crash. When coupled with a strong, competitive ruck, powerful mauls and crashing scrums, players can experience several brutal impacts during a game and anyone of them can be detrimental to the player’s health.

A recent study conducted at Boston University** has found that repeated blows to the head are linked to depression, stress, anxiety, sleep disorders and even suicide. The study has been conducted using the donated brains of former NFL and high-school American football players who have experienced repeated hits to the head throughout their career. Many of the brains donated were by former NFL players who committed suicide following a period of depression or chronic headaches.

There is a stigma associated with sports people where is it seen as wrong to walk off a field, particularly in a physical sport like Rugby. Whilst it is certainly entertaining to the spectator to see tackles of epic physical proportions, who is concerned about the possible long term effect of these impacts.

It is for this reason the rule change should be embraced within the sport. It allows players the opportunity to leave the field of play to get themselves assessed by a medical professional to ensure they are not displaying any symptoms of a concussion. The new rules will place some responsibility on the players to admit to feeling the symptoms of concussion following a tackle. This can only work if it is combined with education to club staff and players about the damage that can be done if head injuries are not properly treated or monitored.

While this relates to players and clubs, the officials also have an important role to play. Aside from fellow players, officials are closest to the action and therefore an important pair of eyes to have on the players during the game. The symptoms of concussion and head trauma should be taught to all players, coaches and officials to ensure symptoms are picked up quickly and rapidly assessed.

But then comes the question. If a concussion isn’t picked up immediately and long term implications occur, who is to blame for not spotting it and reacting at the time of the impact?

The result of the trial may be hard to quantify in such a short period of time but you can be sure that is it not doing any harm to the brains of the players on the field. The results will only be evident over time if there is a reduction in reported depression, stress, anxiety and sleep disorders of retired rugby players.

What is your opinion on the introduction of the concussion bin?

This guest blog was written on behalf of Pannone. Pannone specialise in personal injury resulting from head trauma.

* I have received no fee or other recompense for publishing this article

UPDATE: One of my readers commented on the iRB concussion assessment documents referred to in the BBC article. If you’re interested, you can see more of this at the IRB Player Welfare website

Speech of the year

“This is our time, and one day we will tell our children and our grandchildren that when our time came, we did it right”
Lord Coe, Opening Ceremony, London 2012, 27 July

…is retiring

And so it came to pass.

After 110 National League matches refereed, numerous run outs with a flag, and the occasional Number 4 & 5 appointments, I have advised the RFU Referee management team of my intention to step down from the National Panel of Referees in the New Year.

I’ve recently moved jobs meaning a commute into London every day. The job is fantastic, but means I’m out before dawn and back in the evening so I only see my two boys for 20 mins or so each day as they go to bed. To then spend all day Saturday on the road as well isn’t fair on them, and frankly, they are the most important things to me and I don’t want to miss out on any more than I absolutely have to. That schedule also leaves little room for the necessary training that we have to put in to maintain our fitness in the professional game.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 7 seasons as a National Panel Referee. It’s been an honour and privilege to be able to play a part in our great game at that level. I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I would and that is due to the support Ive had from so many people. Some people Id like to pick out – Dickie Weaver, Jim Marr, David Sainsbury and Jerry Wallis are 4 names you wont have heard of. They’ve been my coaches during my time on the Panel, giving me weekly counsel and advice on all sorts of things both match, referee and work related. All have helped me no end and a huge amount of credit goes to them. If anyone had said I would have got to the great heights of refereeing 1 v 2 in the RFU Championship a few seasons ago, I wouldn’t have believed them, but these 4 people believed in me and pushed me to get there. Other unsung heroes of the RFU refereeing world – Bobbie Haynes and Mel Liley, the former, and current Refs Dept administrators who really do make sure we all know where we going, who we’ll be with, what kit we should have, our comms kit all in order, pay the expenses and make sure we get our match videos. No enviable task!  Often thankless, but hugely appreciated by us all. Steve Leyshon, Steve Savage and Prof Dr “Blue” Mellick have all been great through the years too.

I have always remember the support that I had from my various Societies as I moved up through the ranks. I spent time in Manchester & District, East Midlands, London and latterly Hampshire Referees’ societies and they all invest in you as you go, something I have never forgotten. I’ll be staying in the game, occasionally doing games down here, and continuing to give back in my role as Training Officer for Hampshire. Itself an honour.

It can be a lonely world as a match official – no team huddle, no bus drinking or poker on those Saturday night treks home, no training together etc, so a big thank you is owed to my colleagues past and present on the Panel. They put in the solitary miles, the dedication and commitment to the game. I’ve lost count of the conversations Ive had too and from matches, keeping an eye on each other, picking us up when we’re down, geeing up, reminding of the realities of the world. Great to have that team ethic around us and one I hope never dies away from our game. Cheers guys.

And my final thank you (not that she reads this (maybe..)) is to Mrs R. She’s been forever forgiving in me being absent for 6 days a week, often more in the early days. Never complaining or questioning why I was going to Doncaster, or Exeter, or Launceston, or Fylde etc  pushing me out of the door to train, and being there to explain it all to whenever it was I got back home. She’s been fab, so now, after 12 years together, it’s time we had normal weekends as a family. She deserves that. And I think I deserve it too.

So, I have 4 more games to go – 2 this side of Christmas and then a swansong on the line in the Championship followed by my final game – and one of my choosing – Canterbury v Worthing. Two sides I’ve spent a lot of time with over the years both when I was coming through London 1 and has been great to see them regularly over the years in the National Leagues. They have some amazing people associated with them and I think ending my Panel career surrounded by rugby friends will make it a fitting finale.

This doesn’t mean the end of this blog – it may change over time, and may mean I can watch a little more TV rugby and interact more with you readers and Twitter followers about that sort of thing.



Discipline update

For reasons linked to a game I refereed in November, I’ve been keeping an eye on proceedings in Bristol this evening where the RFU are holding a series of Disciplinary hearings.

My mind went back to some of the Premiership coaches remarks in the press at the weekend. All of them were, quelle surprise, critical of the match officials. Well, interestingly this is what has happened so far this evening (1 more verdict due at time of writing). I’ve paired them with the relevant coaches remarks after the games:

Chris Hala’ufia (London Irish v London Welsh)

Brian Smith, London Irish Director of Rugby, “For me it was a perfect tackle. There was nothing Chris could have done about it and we think it is perfectly executed tackle.”

Three days later, the player pleaded guilty to the charge.

Disciplinary outcome: 5 week ban and order to pay £500 towards hearing costs.

Matt Banahan red card (Bath v Leicester)

Bath coach Gary Gold post match. “I thought Matt’s definitely wasn’t a red but when you lose a game I don’t want to have a go at officials. It was irresponsible and it was unfortunate but I didn’t think it was red but it was a penalty.”

Disciplinary outcome: 3 week ban.

Brett Deacon red card (Bath v Leicester)

Tigers boss Richard Cockerill wasn’t as delicate in his description of the officials’ rulings. “Brett Deacon retaliates a little bit and throws a punch because his mate has been pole-axed and suddenly they are both off. You strike a player and it’s a straight red. It’s political correctness gone mad and in my opinion it’s out of kilter in terms of how the game should be played.”

Disciplinary outcome: 1 week.

Francois Louw (Leicester v Bath)

Cockerill again: “The first sending off was something about nothing. There was a bit of a scuffle and Louw dropped an elbow on a player and it’s a straight red card. Should he have been sent off? Probably not. It’s a bit harsh but it’s the world we live in.”

Disciplinary outcome: case dismissed.

So hardly a ringing condemnation of the decisions made by the officials in the cold light of day. Sure the letters of apology are in the post…..

Audio: behind the scenes with Craig Joubert

Some interesting behind the scenes audio with Craig Joubert in Cardiff last weekend are of the iRB

Click here:Total Rugby Radio – iRB

Dave Pearson retires form refereeing – new 6 Nations Referee Coach

For immediate release: Friday 14th September 2012
ENGLISH referee Dave Pearson has become the first Elite Referee Coach appointed by the Six Nations.

Pearson has spent 10 years in the RFU Professional Referee Unit, refereeing over 300 senior games including 29 Tests, and will join on October 8, 2012.

Jon Davis, Six Nations Tournament & Operations Director, said “We are very pleased to have Dave on board in the role, particularly given his up-to-date experience at the top level of refereeing. Dave’s primary role will be to raise the standard and quantity of elite referees across the Six Nations. “Dave will work closely with Donal Courtney, ERC Match Official Performance Manager, who played an important part in the recruitment process and together they will be working towards a common philosophy for coaching elite match officials across the Six Nations.”

Dave Pearson said: “Referee coaching is where I always saw myself going after refereeing at the top level and this is the perfect job for me. Although it has perhaps come a little sooner than I had anticipated, I’m extremely excited about taking the new role on and working for Six Nations”.

John Feehan, Six Nations CEO, commented: “This appointment represents a significant investment and recognition by the Six Nations Council of the importance of supporting refereeing at the top level in our territories. I look forward to having Dave as part of the team and to seeing an improvement in the overall numbers of the top referees representing the Six Unions.”

RFU Head of Professional Referee Development Ed Morrison said: “While never anticipating Dave Pearson moving from active refereeing at this early stage, the referee coaching role within the Six Nations affords him a wonderful opportunity move to the next stage of his working life. “Dave brings with him a wealth of refereeing knowledge, having operated at the highest level of the game for some years. He will be missed by all his colleagues here at the RFU but at the same time everyone will join me in wishing him every success in this exciting new role.”

New TMO trials for live Premiership matches

We knew the Aviva Premiership would trial the new TMO ideas outlined by the IRB earlier in the summer. Here’s the detail on how it will work:

Television Match Official
This trial, which has been supported by the RFU’s Laws Sub Committee and the TMO Steering Group, will take place in all matches shown live on either ESPN or Sky Sports, and allow the match referee to refer to the TMO incidents that have led to the scoring of a try at any point from the last stoppage in play. In addition, the TMO will be able to intervene in incidents of foul play.

The full TMO trials are as follows:

TMO may be referred to as per the current application as well as:

  • When match officials are unsure whether foul play has occurred anywhere on the field or in-goal
  • When match officials believe there may have been an infringement by the team that scored a try
  • When match officials believe a try was prevented by an infringement
  • To confirm the success or otherwise of kicks at goal
  • Infringements listed by the IRB include knock-ons, forward passes, player in touch, off-sides, obstructions, tackling a player without the ball, foul play and double movement in the act of scoring.
  • How does TMO adjudicate?

  • When asked to intervene by the referee (except for incidents of significant foul play where the TMO can ask the referee to stop the game)
  • Referrals can now go back to the previous restart, i.e. penalty kick, free kick, lineout, scrum, kick-off
  • If it is not clear, the TMO is to advise there is no clear evidence and the referee will need to make a decision
  • TMO to advise on the type of infringement, the recommended sanction and where play is to restart
  • TMOs can be advised on infringements by the team that scored or touched down, as well as if a try has been prevented from being scored
  • If there is doubt as to whether the try would have been scored the TMO must then advise the appropriate sanction
  • If foul play is referred, the TMO is to make recommendations as to the appropriate sanctions, as an assistant referee can currently do.
  • RFU Head of Professional Referee Development Ed Morrison: “The modern game is fast-paced and action-packed and it is important that our officials are equipped with the best tools to ensure that sometimes critical incidents are observed and acted upon. The referee is in charge of the game but him and his assistants to be able to draw on the TMO in such circumstances will help us maintain the high standards of officiating that we have in the Aviva Premiership.”

    Yippee, it’s here!

    Well I, for one, am really excited by the Olympics. I remember the day it was announced (and sadly the awful events of the following day) – I worked near Hyde Park and you could hear the roar from Trafalgar Square from there. Awesome.


    And the Olympic Park looks terrific! I visited the park back in February and even then it looked great.

    Now everything is sparkling. It’s ready. It’s on time. There’s no major disasters (private security aside)  and the scene is set for an awesome month of sport. Sadly I didnt get tickets but am going to try and get across during the Paralympics to get a sense of the occasion – lets get behind those games as well.

    So, relax, and enjoy. It’s going to be a fun ride!



    PS Also loving the fact that the BBC have 20+ channels on the Sky Network to show as much as possible. I can feel an ear infection coming on….


    Waynes Barnes recalled to top IRB referees pool

    Great news for Wayne. Glad to see the Referee selection process working as advertised a few months back.

    Match officials named for Rugby Championship

    (IRB.COM) Friday 6 July 2012
     Match officials named for Rugby Championship
    Wayne Barnes will referee Argentina’s encounter with Australia on the Gold Coast

    The International Rugby Board has announced the appointment of match officials for the inaugural Rugby Championship, which begins on August 18.

    Appointments were made by the IRB Match Official Selection Committee following a detailed review of performances during the recent June tours and Tests.

    The IRB’s commitment to promoting consistency by enabling movement in and out of the group and rewarding referees who are in form is reflected in the selection of eight match officials with Wayne Barnes (RFU) returning following a strong showing in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup.

    The referees are: Alain Rolland (IRFU), Steve Walsh (ARU), Nigel Owens (WRU), Romain Poite (FFR), Wayne Barnes (RFU), George Clancy (IRFU), Jaco Peyper (SARU) and Craig Joubert (SARU).

    The referees will also undertake assistant referee duties alongside a group of up-and-coming referees who have earned their place owing to their performances in recent Tests and at the IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa.

    Rolland will make history when he takes charge of the first match of The Rugby Championship between Australia and New Zealand at the ANZ Stadium, Sydney on August 18.

    On the same day Walsh will also make history when he referees Argentina’s first match in a major annual Tier 1 competition when the Pumas face South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town.

    Away from The Rugby Championship, Rugby World Cup 2011 Final referee Joubert will take charge of the third Bledisloe Cup match on October 20. Chris Pollock (NZRU) was unavailable for consideration owing to hip surgery. 


    IRB Match Official Selection Committee Chairman, IRB Council Member and former Scotland and British & Irish Lions player John Jeffery said: “The IRB is committed to ensuring that the platform is in place to promote the very best refereeing standards at the elite level of the Game.”

    “Our continued priority is the promotion of consistency and performance and our aim is to deliver the best available panel for Rugby World Cup 2015, while at the same time applying the best-for-best principle in the selection of referees for each international window.”

    “The inaugural Rugby Championship is a very exciting prospect for world Rugby and this selection is based on recent performances and appointments have been made on merit. Within the process we continue to consult with coaches and teams and I would like to thank the Unions for their feedback, dedication and full support of the process.”

    IRB Referee Manager Paddy O’Brien said: “The goal across all aspects of international officiating is consistency and a highlight for us has been the partnership with our Unions in focusing on bringing through the next crop of referees who will be in contention for a place at Rugby World Cup 2015. This was very evident at the recent IRB Junior World Championship where the guys showed a good account of themselves.”

    SANZAR Chief Executive Greg Peters said: “It is great to see the top match officials in the world appointed for the first edition of The Rugby Championship this year. This is testament to the hard work that the IRB Match Official Selection Committee has undertaken in identifying the top performers from the northern and southern hemispheres. The scene is well and truly set for the new preeminent southern hemisphere rugby tournament.”

    The new selection system allows for movement in and out of the panel based on form and rewards the top performers and young referees who have graduated through the performance pathway ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.