Sport Rugby

Tuesday 23 January 2018

With interpretations set in stone, there's no excuse for law-breakers

Frankie Sheahan looks at some of the areas referees have been told to police at the RWC

Frankie Sheahan

The IRB have noticed that a trend has developed where players are clearing out ahead of the ball and then intentionally holding the cleared-out player, preventing him from defending. This is what Jonathan Thomas did with Paul O'Connell in Thomond Park last December (when Paul got sent off), and something the All Blacks do a lot. If it's penalised at this World Cup, it will affect the All Blacks.

If at a tackle situation a clear and obvious maul develops, the referee should call 'Maul' and referee this phase accordingly. Once he has called maul, neither team may deliberately collapse the maul. If however the maul goes to ground and the referee is undecided about which team caused it to go to ground, he should whistle a turnover if the ball isn't immediately available from the collapse.

The fact that the referee will have to whistle immediately if the ball isn't available is great news for Ireland. The wrap-up defence 'choke tackle' that Les Kiss has brought in will mean that Ireland could capitalise on this.

Both the ball-carrying side and the defenders are to be refereed equally at the maul. A player who is caught up in the maul and makes his way through the middle of the formation is not obliged to leave the maul. Fantastic news for Paul O'Connell, Leo Cullen and Denis Leamy, who have a gift for making a nuisance of themselves in this manner. (O'Connell on Harinordoquy in Bordeaux, for example.)

With regard to the scrum, there will continue to be four clear and precise calls -- crouch, touch, pause, engage -- and four corresponding actions. There will be zero tolerance for early engagement in addition to failing to engage on the referee's call. We are seeing this scenario already. Ireland were leaking about two free-kicks per warm-up match. The front row is pulling the trigger too early. If Ireland don't watch this, they will continue to throw away perfectly good possession.

Summarising the highlighted areas of the scrum, looseheads are to be hitting up and tightheads are to be square on engagement. Looseheads who end up putting a hand on the ground to prevent a collapse at engagement may be able to rebind, but if they do this continually, they will be sanctioned.

The tighthead must be square. The guys to watch here are Castrogiovanni, Owen Franks and Jannie du Plessis. This will be very difficult to enforce because any good tighthead will tend to come across on the hooker so it will be interesting to see this unfold.

Offside is strictly enforced; this speaks for itself, but the interesting bit is that touch judges will now be involved to call it.

Players supporting the ball winner at kick-offs and lineouts must do so from alongside or behind the ball winner. Players doing so from in front of the ball winner are to be penalised for obstruction.

This is a trick of the trade and will affect England, in particular, who like to do a truck-and-trailer set-up at both (although they were doing it against Ireland last Saturday, and it was ignored).

Also, foul play will be watched closely -- judo-flip clear-outs, as perfected by Jerry Collins, are out. Dragging players out of mauls by their neck, as Dylan Hartley likes to do, is now forbidden. Unfortunately, if you go over the line of the shoulders in setting up a maul, as Stephen Ferris did last Saturday, you'll also get blown.

Any tackle over the line of the shoulders, even if accidental, is to be penalised. Keep it low, or get carded, is the message on this one. This will have implications for the likes of Tuilagi and the Island Nations like Fiji, Tonga and Samoa who can be ferocious and occasionally reckless in the tackle.

It is not good enough anymore to moan about referees after matches. They will be very clear prior to games as to their interpretations of various laws and very often will even meet with the coach the day before. Also, with so much video analysis now, players have the benefit of seeing what way they referee. At the end of the day the referee is another player who will get it wrong on occasion so let's not be too hard on them.

Sunday Indo Sport

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