Referees and coaches unified on approach to continued focus areas

Referees and coaches unified on approach to continued focus areas including foul play and head contact

Referees and coaches involved in the November window have met ahead of the opening round of test matches this weekend, furthering ongoing commitment to open dialogue and alignment.

With a busy window of more than 60 men’s and women’s matches kicking off on Friday, the regular workshop enables referees and coaches to consider key areas of game-management and coaching approach. November focus areas include foul play, the scrum pre-feed, offside at the tackle and ruck and closing the gap in the lineout.

While the approach for November is one of ‘no change’ to recent international windows, World Rugby re-emphasised its ‘zero-tolerance’ expectation regarding the officiating of foul play in the interests of player welfare.

Following a review of recent matches, including those outside the window last weekend, match officials were reminded of their obligations in sanctioning illegal no arms tackles, high tackles and charging with the forearm or elbow, as the international federation furthers its commitment to evidence-based head injury prevention. This was also reinforced at a highly-productive match officials/disciplinary workshop. 

World Rugby High Performance 15s Match Officials Manager Alain Rolland also outlined the revised Television Match Official (TMO) protocol trial that will operate at tier one hosted tests from this weekend.(read the details here).

Chairman of the World Rugby Match Officials Selection Committee Anthony Buchanan said: “These workshops are about clarity, alignment and consistency and with no change in emphasis everyone is clear on our officiating approach as we build towards Rugby World Cup 2019.

“There are always areas that we can re-focus on or strive to do better at, both as match officials and coaches, and we spent time today discussing and calibrating focus areas, including those that are linked to player welfare. It is very encouraging that the coaches have all bought into the process.”

Rolland added: “These meetings have incredible value for all participants and I would like to thank the coaches and referees for their full input and alignment on key areas of officiating. It is through this dialogue that we are able to ensure that the game continues to improve as a spectacle and experience for players, coaches, match officials and fans.”

Match official focus areas as agreed and calibrated in advance of the 2018 Six Nations

  • Scrum: The match officials are looking for infringements including pre-engagement, pushing early, crooked feeds, non-hooking and wheeling 
  • Lineout: The match officials are looking for infringements including closing, stepping or running into the gap before the ball is thrown in
  • Space: Match officials are looking for infringements that close space, including from kick-offs and kicks and at the tackle/ruck and maul
  • Penalty tries: A penalty try will be awarded if an act of foul play prevents a probable try
  • Foul play: Match officials will be vigilant for ball carriers who lead into contact with the elbow or forearm to the neck or head, no arms tackles (Law 9.16), high tackles (Law 9.13), neck rolls and ruck-charging



At the joint coach and referee meeting there was also a comprehensive update on rugby’s injury-prevention approach, focusing on controllable injuries and unified injury surveillance.

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