Saturday 10 December 2016

Lawrence offers welcome change from referee's Omerta

Sean Diffley

Published 02/04/2011 | 05:00

Rugby referees, even going back to the days of Hermes, have always kept their own counsel. They make their decisions, indicate illegalities and thereafter are as silent as the denizens in the Pyramids.

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Indeed, try to gain a considered analysis of that 'try' in Cardiff and you'll encounter a classic example of such an approach.

Or just try to communicate with the International Rugby Board, which is likely to be about as successful as seeking to outwit Brian O'Driscoll's defence.

I wrote about Paddy O'Brien recently, the IRB's referees manager, and he suggested we talk, but first he asked me to get permission for an interview through the IRB. No reply from the IRB voicemail ever came. Not a word. The culture of Omerta prevails.

Then, I stumbled upon the website of the New Zealand Rugby Union and there, at length, was a referee pontificating about a Test he had controlled.

And the referee -- hold on, for goodness sake, to the sides of your seat -- was none other than Bryce Lawrence from Tauranga, the man who refereed Ireland versus England and who, on the official All Blacks website, gave us a running commentary of his experiences at the Aviva Stadium.

Did Lawrence ever hear of the referees' 'code of silence'? Or did he simply decide to ignore the IRB on Dublin's Merrion Row?

It's not that he tells us a lot in his magnus opus. "Ireland", he writes, "were extremely fired up and physical. They produced a far better scrum effort, largely due to the work done by ex-All Black Greg Feek."

Nice little plug there for the Land of the Long White Cloud.

"No one from England fired a shot," says Bryce. "The score of 24-8 could easily been 40-8. Everything seemed to click for Ireland and nothing clicked for England."

He picks out two players for particularly favourable mention -- Jonny Sexton and Tommy Bowe -- and reports that he got a positive and disciplined approach from both teams.

Lawrence's effusion will hardly rank among the literary greats, but the act of putting his experiences on record is, surely, a step in the right direction.

As for the World Cup, everybody seems sure the All Blacks are a certainty to triumph on home soil. I don't. I was in New Zealand in 1987 when the All Blacks won their only World Cup.

The French and Australians had played a memorable semi-final in Sydney and it was an exhausted French who were comparatively easy meat for the All Blacks in the final in Eden Park.

Okay, so the All Black look formidable nowadays, but so did England before they were so thoroughly dismantled at the Aviva Stadium.

Remember this -- Tipperary Tim won the Aintree Grand National at 100/1. Forget about dead certs.

Irish Independent

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