IRB changes referee appointment restructure – Paddy O’Brien loses job

Obviously a late night in the IRB press office after this was leaked to the BBC’s excellent rugby correspondent Alastair Eykyn.

IRB unveils referee selection restructure
(IRB.COM) Saturday 24 March 2012

– Paddy O’Brien will now focus his extensive experience on Sevens
– Selection committee to convene four times per year
– Referee panel for June internationals announced
– Process building towards Rugby World Cup 2015
– Process allows for movement in and out of the Panel based on form
– Paddy O’Brien to step down as IRB Referee Manager and transition to new Rugby Sevens role

As part of its ongoing review process and commitment to ensuring consistency and that the best referees are selected on form to officiate in the biggest matches in the run up to Rugby World Cup 2015, the IRB has announced a restructured and more streamlined selection process overseen by a vastly experienced committee.

The committee, which includes former elite referees Lyndon Bray, Tappe Henning (both SANZAR), Donal Courtney and Clayton Thomas (both 6 Nations), will now meet four times per year and make selections for the next international window with all performances reviewed as part of the next round of international selections.

Following a thorough review of performances during the recently concluded RBS 6 Nations, the selection committee commitment to promoting consistency has been reflected in the latest selections with nine elite referees appointed to the top games in what is a busy June international window that also sees the beginning of the schedule involving tours to Tier 2 Unions.

They are: George Clancy (Ireland), Jérôme Garcès (France), Craig Joubert (South Africa), Nigel Owens (Wales), Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Romain Poite (France), Alain Rolland (Ireland) and Steve Walsh (Australia).

Acting chairman of the selection committee and IRB Council member for Scotland John Jeffrey 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 priority is the continued promotion of consistency and performance and our strategic goal 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.”

“There will be consistent movement in and out of the panel based on form to reward the top performers and those making the step up as we build towards RWC 2015 in England. In short, this means that referees are selected on merit, in form and closer to the matches being played. All Member Unions are committed to this process, which is essential for its success.”
Underscoring its commitment to ensuring selection on form, there will now be four selection meetings per year to tie in with the four international windows. At each meeting, the referee panel for the next international window will be reviewed and named.
The committee agreed that the key areas of the Game identified for particular focus by referees needed constant reviewing. Those five key areas are:

– All aspects of the tackle with particular emphasis to be placed on the tackler releasing the tackled player and rolling away and arriving players staying on their feet
– Offside at the breakdown
– Offside from kicks
– All aspects of the scrum, particularly the engagement process and front-row binding
– All aspects of the maul, particularly what constitutes legal maul defence
As part of the restructure, IRB Referee Manager Paddy O’Brien has chosen to take on a new challenge after seven years of excellent service in his present role. Having played an instrumental role in the advancement of elite match official preparation and performance, including the management of the referee team at two Rugby World Cups, he has decided that he requires a fresh challenge.

O’Brien will now focus his extensive experience into a similar role for Rugby Sevens, underlining the IRB’s commitment to Sevens ahead of Rugby making its return to the Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He remains central to the match official process and is supportive of the restructure.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Paddy’s exceptional dedication and application to driving forward elite match official standards has significantly benefitted the Game over the past seven years. I am delighted that he will be channelling all his experience into preparing the best up-and-coming match officials on the HSBC Sevens World Series to ensure that the very best referees are in peak form for 2016.”
The process for replacing O’Brien will be announced in due course.

Click here for the Summer appointments

Interesting move and while I can understand the move to a more transient pool, I just can’t see how some of those have made the list at the expense of those not on this time. But then again, I’m not a former Elite referee (like Bray, Henning, Courtney or Clayton) with access to all the data and “objective” analysis. I’d reckon that Wayne Barnes will be back sooner rather than later! Of all of those, Id suggest he would be the real test of the ‘people moving in and out of the pool’ concept. We know he’s one of the best and even if you suggest his Scot 6N game wasn’t his best, his form and consistency over the years has to keep him in good stead.

I’d also just add that I’d like to see someone like Ed Morrison go for the top job. Clearly a world respected official, he has been running the RFU Elite Referee Unit for a few years now. When I suggested that on twitter last night, a retweet from Mr Eykyn to his 12,000 followers would suggest I may not be alone!!

IRB scrum news (and Refblog thoughts!)

News from the IRB about scrums.I can already hear the smirking of people relating to the put in being refereeing, but in my view, that is missing the point. Fact – referees cant look at more than one thing at once. If the front rows didnt mess around, then we wouldnt need to focus on them, and maybe watch the put in. They do, so we cant!

I do get a little tired at people blaming refs for all the mess. If the players didn’t try and cheat in this area, it would be simple. Rugby players don’t pass the ball forward (a law) but will do many things against scrum law. Why? Somehow, this all seems to come back to the referee, with very little comment/direction focussed on the players. Just a thought….

Key bit for me:

IRB policy which mandates that referees should crack down on illegal front row binding with a collective emphasis on ensuring that the tight head prop binds on the body of the loose head prop and not the arm and the loose head prop adopts the correct body position and binds on the body of the opposition tight head.

Looking forward to Saturday already!


IRB and 6N coaches commit to tackling scrum

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 26 January 2011
IRB and 6N coaches commit to tackling scrum 

Coaches from the Six Nations participants pledge to work with the IRB to deliver a stable scrum platform at the elite level

Coaches from the RBS Six Nations participating Unions have thrown their support behind the IRB’s commitment to address scrum issues at the elite level of the Game.

Currently 60% of all scrums collapse in Tier 1 internationals and 40% of scrums are required to be reset while the average time taken to complete a scrum has risen from 41 seconds to 53.

Despite a slight decrease in the number of collapses and resets since the new engagement sequence was introduced last year, the IRB remains determined to tackle the issues and ensure that this critical facet of the Game is a spectacle and a contest.

Coaching representatives from England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales pledged to work with the IRB to deliver a stable scrum platform at a highly positive and productive forum in London on Tuesday evening.

In addition to expressing their support for the scrum engagement sequence, the coaches also gave their backing to the IRB’s policy of the strict application of scrum Law, including ensuring straight put-ins. The coaches also support the IRB policy which mandates that referees should crack down on illegal front row binding with a collective emphasis on ensuring that the tight head prop binds on the body of the loose head prop and not the arm and the loose head prop adopts the correct body position and binds on the body of the opposition tight head.

This collaborative approach will be critical in assisting to address the problematic aspects of the scrum. Last year a similar approach agreed by all Tier 1 coaches led to a crackdown in key areas of Law: offside at the breakdown; offside from kicks; illegal maul formation and strict application of the tackle Law. This resulted in a return to attacking Rugby.

“The meeting was extremely constructive and highly productive. All found it beneficial and it was encouraging to see universal agreement from the coaches about the need to continue to penalise the clear and the obvious in the five key areas of Law and in particular the need to address the scrum issues that are currently experienced at elite level,” said IRB Referee Manager Paddy O’Brien.

“We are encouraged that teams recognise there is a collective responsibility to ensure that the high number of collapses and resets is reduced. The coaches expressed their full support for referees to employ a zero tolerance policy towards engagement offences and have given a commitment that their teams will endeavour to be compliant in producing a stable, steady scrum by binding correctly. The scrum is an integral facet of the Game and by working together we can target the issues while ensuring that player welfare continues to be the most important consideration.”

A directive will be issued to all Unions reinforcing the message. The coaches forum has become a regular fixture ahead of the RBS Six Nations, Tri Nations, June and November Tests and underscores the IRB’s commitment to an open and transparent process of collaboration and communication between the IRB and its Member Unions in all areas of refereeing practice.