View Full Version : North and South

08-03-04, 19:03
Just what is the purpose of having so many southern hemisphere referees officiating at the 6NC?
Is it a). For us to see how the job should should be done?
b) For them to get experience of officiating between, shall we say, a more traditional confrontation?
c) For the northern hemishpere teams to get used to how they view things down under?

For Dickinson, Betson's pass was not something to blow up for, (passe nearly every Super 12 contest).
For Hoeniss, any contested scrum is, ipso facto, an illegal way of preventing a clean restart.
For Walsh, it's the contested ruck. If the ball doesn't come back on a plate in nano seconds, the opposition MUST have offended.
For Watson, it's...................words fail me at this crucial moment.

I know a lot of areas are difficult to manage at speed, but consistancy at international level is about coaching the referees, then the game coaches and then the players. At present, ALL international players are confused about international interpretations. You don't make the game better by changing the laws, you change the referees who appear incapable of changing their pre-conceptions of how the game should be played if only they were in charge.

But, at least we have a game where the referee IS in charge.

09-03-04, 10:03
Actually, if you would care to read the IRB's statistical analysis of the game here (http://www.irb.com/playing/game_analysis/index.cfm), there is little or no material difference between Northern and Southern Hemisphere refs...

09-03-04, 11:03
Thanks for that, Pablo. Absolutely fascinating.
But not quite the answer.
In the 2003 RWC survey, the report does emphasise some differences, but perhaps not as dramatically as I did on my first post.
One might even say that the statistics could be used to indicate that both hemispheres are equally confused.
My question referred to the practice of shipping referees around the globe and for what reason. If, as you imply, there are no differences, what's the point. If it is to maintain equality, what aspects are unequal?
I'm getting a bit pedantic, but that's what statistics do for you.

There IS a difference and the players acknowledge their anxiety more frequently than would otherwise be the case if, as you imply, there is nothing wrong with the status quo.

But, thanks for the link to the data. It's going to be very useful at the bar.

09-03-04, 13:03
My question referred to the practice of shipping referees around the globe and for what reason. If, as you imply, there are no differences, what's the point.

The point is this: rugby is now big, big business, with many games pulling in large audiences both live and on TV, and bookmakers doing tidy trade from people betting on the outcome. Ten years ago this was not the case. However, that being then, and this being now, it is of the utmost importance that not even the slightest accusation of bias can be levelled at referees in the highest profile tournaments. Clearly this is the underlying reason for using neutral refs... but how do you define neutral?

Let's take the current 6 Nations as an example, and conjecture about the future results. Let's say the Irish thump Italy heavily next week, while England and France both record narrow victories over Wales and Scotland respectively. The French now lead the table, still undefeated, while Ireland are in second thanks to their (now huge) points difference, and England third.

The following weekend, Ireland win again by a significant point margin. Their points difference is such that if France lose to England, the English victory must be by 10 clear points to win the tournament. Imagine now that the referee for the England v. France game is.... Irish. England lead France by 11 points, and with 8 minutes of injury time gone, the Irish referee awards a contentious and dubious penalty to France right under the posts. They score, the ref blows for full time, and Ireland take the tournament by 2 points on points difference.

In the context of only the game result, the Irish ref is neutral, but in the context of the wider tournament, in which his nation is a participant, how neutral is he really? Has he just engineered an Irish championship?

Can you imagine the uproar such a situation would cause? Now, if the referee is, say, South African, and he makes exactly the same decision to give Ireland the Championship, nobody would bat an eyelid, because his nation doesn't compete in this tournament, so he is assumed to be unbiased...

OK, I paint a far-fetched and extremely nightmarish scenario, and I firmly believe no top-level ref would ever do such a thing. But equally I can't blame rugby's governing bodies for not wanting to allow even the slightest suggestion of bias. It would be a PR nightmare for all concerned and something from which, if it happened, the sport might never recover. Better safe than sorry. So, using Southern refs in the 6N is just the ultimate CMA strategy!...

Robert Burns
10-03-04, 00:03
I think you lay the point out very well Pablo!

I have emailed Dave Broadwell who is my official RFU resource and I thank for him taking the time out to answer queries that we do have about the top level game.

10-03-04, 15:03
Whilst I agree that the point Pablo makes could lead to unwarranted accusations of bias being made, and that the intelligent solution, which I am sure is the one the organisers would opt for, is to cut off any such speculation at source by not allowing such a position to arise, I would suggest that there is a much simpler reason why SH refs do NH games and vice versa. It allows referees and players to gain broader experience, and reinforces the consistency which seems to have been gained over recent years.

13-03-04, 23:03
Davet hits the nail right on the head!
Of course, it is hoped that interchanging referees will bring about more consistancy, but I refer you to my original and, perhaps, badly phrased question.
Davet's assertion pre-supposes that we have started from a position if inconsistancy; a view with which I would agree.
However, I would challenge the current process as inefficient. There is an agenda of preference for the style and substance of the game and it has a global perspective. It has been N v S, whether unpalatable or not and it has unsettled players from both hemisheres. ( Hence the stats). As a very old coach and latterly one of the, 'old farts', I can vouch for the problems of referees' interpretation from within the region, never mind the world. That issue was tackled by education of referees, then coaches and then players. If the coach appreciates the ref, the players will usually follow suit.
Just swanning referees around the globe without some serious instruction policy from a united IRFU only brings the game into the realms of lottery.
Pablo's point about multi ethnicked refs to please commerce or the bookies is a bit weak. If the 6N can't find a decent Home ref for the final of whatever tournament, we are wasting our time and money sending them South. Under the circumstances Paplo describes:-
a). Even a Southern referee might find it difficult to be unbiased and probably couldn't care less about maintaining his impartiality. The English are still unpopular in certain parts, no matter what whistle you carry, and
b). As usual, ANY ref would always be to blame!

In case you think I don't like S. refs., you'd be wrong. I'm half Oz and half Cornish.

14-03-04, 01:03
I'm half Oz and half Cornish.

What a mix!

15-03-04, 13:03

The inconsistency thing is normally countered by stats which show that SH and NH refs blow pretty much the same number of penalties per game; and the iRB seem sure that there is no difference. Though the stats do show that NH refs are more likely to penalise the team in possession at ruck/tackle on the ground offences (39%NH - 30%SH). Or, if you prefer the other spin, SH refs are more lenient with the team in possession..... That though is the ONLY significant difference which I can elicit, however hard I try.

However one views the consistency of approach and decision making by refs around the world I do think that using referees from all over the world to referee internationals all over the world is the way to continue to close down any actual or perceived differences.

I would support the idea that the iRB has a panel of world class referees which are used for international tournements, the more exposure referees have to all sorts of conditions the better - it strikes me as a basic thing, no different in principle to the referee exchanges which go on at relatively low level within the English societies, with out of county refs.

I do agree that all this needs to take place within a consistent training setup, which surely is what is happening (or beginning anyway), from the lowest levels of the county society, through the federated societies - which most County societies now belong to - through the new training courses put in place by the RFU, through the National Panels and the iRB which all provide appropriate training for their referees.

19-05-05, 09:05
I don't think there is a huge difference in refs between N and S. I think all the refs have different styles and personalities, and thats reflected in the way they ref. Some of the interpretations may differ a little, but the coaches and players are well aware of their ref in advance. Paddy O'Brien, in his biography, says the most impressive coach is Clive Woodward, as at the meeting before games he just says "Are you going to ref it like the Blues/Crusaders Super12 match, because we've got that on video"

Also as far as bias goes, I think that refereeing (like rugby in general) has become so much more professional that bias is a non-event. I think top refs could easily referee their own country to no material effect.

I'm a NZer living and reffing in Australia, and amongst my fave refs (for observing and learning) are:
Paddy O'Brien - lets the players play the game
Steve Walsh - positioning is excellent
Chris White - a great allround ref, and good with players

As I say, all the top international guys bring their own elements to each game. In general they are very consistent amongst the group


Robert Burns
19-05-05, 12:05
I think you are dead right with your fav three refs there, I think I would have the exact same people. Now Paddy is retired though I would probably replace him with the french ref who's name escapes me now.

19-05-05, 12:05
Joel Jutge?

Is spelt something like that, is he the one?

I think you are dead right with your fav three refs there, I think I would have the exact same people. Now Paddy is retired though I would probably replace him with the french ref who's name escapes me now.

19-05-05, 13:05
Good observation Churchie.

The only rugby I get on TV is the S12, and it's fascinating watching the referees on their own patch.
One thing I have noticed is that there is a slight "school teacher" tendency starting to emerge. Paul Honiss, Jon Kaplan, for example - technically excellent referees, but their man management sometimes makes me wonder.
I have a sneaking admiration for Mark Lawrence, however, for reasons cited elsewhere.

Robert Burns
19-05-05, 13:05
Joel Jutge?

Is spelt something like that, is he the one?
Yes, thats him!

20-05-05, 00:05
Why all this discussion and bitterness about NH referees doing SH games and vice-versa? Ive still yet to gage what the problem is.
Sure there may be some differences between the way the two hemispheres play; saying that there are MUCH larger differences between the way individual countries play. Does that mean we should have a referee from each COUNTRY refereeing all their games? I mean come on. The practice of refs travelling the globe is nothing new, and watching the recent 6 Nations on pay TV here, I thought the standard of refereeing was more than acceptable in all the games I saw. (And yes I did watch Ireland vs England! but thats for another time ;) ) I mean in last years Tri Nations we had Chris White, Alain Rolland and Donal Courtney referee major games and this year we have Tony Spreadbury, Alain Rolland and Chris White again. Noone has a problem with them coming down here to ref the games. So whats all the fuss about?

20-05-05, 01:05
I agree robertti, also we have to think about the refs. What an amzing opportunity to be able to travel the world and ref top quality rugby in several different competitions.

And Simon - I know what you mean about Honiss/Kaplan - they know the law better than anyone else, but I think Honiss in particular sometimes gets into that game of 'gotcha'. Man management is not quite up to the standards of a couple of the other blokes either.


Robert Burns
20-05-05, 08:05
I agree I have no problem with any referee doing any game, but I believe Pablo's explanation is exactly right as to why it's done more now than before. But as said above, whats the problem? Surely a ref is a ref, wherever they are from?

20-05-05, 09:05
well... I couls ee that the expenses of flying a NZ ref half way aroiund the world in presumablky business class as opposed to a FC rail ticket for a Scottish ref IF passed onto a CB refs society, or a grass roots club would make a larger impact on the game in general than the actualk ref used in a 6N match. Anbd vice versa for a S12/tri nations match. Especially as ther si allegedly so little difference between refs on a hemispherical basis...

Just a thought....


tim White
23-06-05, 14:06
Never ever forget that the referee is the only person on the park trying NOT to cheat.