Saturday 23 September 2017

Tony Ward: Rule changes stand to reason but referees must use common sense too

Referee Ben Whitehouse. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Referee Ben Whitehouse. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

Before Saturday's game in Galway, in dire conditions, referee Ben Whitehouse gave an informative explanation of the new laws governing the catcher taking the ball into touch and on the scrum-half putting the ball into the scrum to enable a front-row to strike.

I can see front-row forwards from previous generations shaking their heads in disbelief - and I'm not just talking about the hooker. The match official explained the need to cut down on time wasting at the scrum.

Nobody could argue with the rationale behind the experimental changes and for TG4 and the watching audience, Whitehouse was concise.

I am slow to criticise referees because I believe it is a thankless task and therefore by extension have enormous respect for those who take up the whistle, in particular former players. You cannot put a value on the Alain Rollands, John Laceys, Frank Murphys and Joy Nevilles of this world.

However, on Saturday, in poor handling conditions, I felt the referee failed to even attempt to put into practice what he had emphasised in relation to increasing ball-in-play time beforehand.

Technically, I'm sure he could justify almost every blast of the whistle in terms of the rule book, but it is on inclement days like Saturday that an element of leeway has to be given.

To pick just one example from the maestro (Nigel Owens), when the ball has been won and moved beyond the front-row even the scrum collapsing (providing the official deems it safe) should not require a reset.

I'm still on your side, Ben - but slow down on that whistle.

Irish Independent

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