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Last result: Montpellier 45-8 Newcastle Falcons

Article on Refgs
Bedlington Lad (IP Logged)
10 January, 2018 08:24
From the Chiefs board:Quote:
charlie Morgan in the Telegraph

Charlie Morgan
9 JANUARY 2018 • 7:06 PM
“This takes me back,” declares Matthew Carley, who sent off England prop Joe Marler on Saturday at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford. The rangy, amusing 33-year-old breaks from some stretches to shuffle his shoulders as club classic Show Me Love by Robin S pulses across the gym. Carley’s dancing draws a laugh out of Sara Cox, the RFU’s first professional female referee.

Welcome to Twickenham Stadium, and the first day of the working week for the best full- and part-time officials in England. The camaraderie among an eclectic blend of characters is upbeat and infectious – exactly as you would expect from any successful team in any walk of life.

A friendly Tom Foley shows me back through the tunnel to a changing room, where two more members of the Premiership panel – the engaging Ian Tempest and Wayne Barnes, a criminal barrister as well as the senior figure of this group – are locked in an earnest conversation about how the best touch-judges and television match officials communicate. Another, Karl Dickson, is on hand to wind them up when the tone becomes too serious for a Monday morning. The innate mischievousness of a scrum-half does not diminish.

Earlier this season, his first in the full-time program after retiring from playing, the 35-year-old former Harlequin caused a stir by suggesting that referees were fitter than those they oversaw. Indeed, body shapes are strikingly athletic and triangular across the board. That soon makes sense.

Dedicated strength and conditioning coach Alex Reid, part of a strong and varied support network that now includes a psychologist, outlines the forthcoming fitness session. Those who refereed on Sunday or had a particularly taxing match – their running loads are carefully monitored – have a ‘flush’ cycle to begin. Those who oversaw matches on Friday evening and Saturday and those feeling fresh enough have pyramid intervals to get through. So do I.

This comprises of 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off, 30 on, 30 off, 45 on, 45 off, one minute on, one minute off. You climb the set and go back down the other side twice. It proves to be a sweaty 20 minutes.

Everyone heads upstairs to a fleet of Wattbikes. I am sandwiched between Barnes and Foley. Trying, and miserably failing, to keep pace with the latter, I am soon too breathless to chat to the former. Barnes reveals that he has seen amazing strides in professionalism since he started in 2005. Reid counts experience with Fulham FC, Tottenham Hotspur, the FA and England Athletics on an impressive CV. She is now into her eighth season and has clearly been a significant influence.

“I’m so proud of them,” she says. “The aim has been to encourage an autonomy about their training and we have definitely done that. Some of them hit level 21 on yo-yo tests. They often get asked if they are sevens players.” On cue, Cox comes over and asks for some jellybeans, having emptied herself on the Wattbike. “She’s a star,” grins Reid as Cox turns away again. “She’ll keep up with a lot of the lads in the running we do.”

Carley giggles on a wobble board as I topple off another balance ball: “Don’t worry mate. We’ll shift some tin in a minute.” And they do.

The referees’ two team training days, Monday and Tuesday, both feature weights and foreshadow a week of preparation that can include helping out at club training sessions. Today, bench press and pull-ups are on the agenda in the upper-body split. Interestingly, image is as important as function here. As long as their cardiovascular levels are up to scratch, Reid wants her charges to fill their shirts so they can have a “presence” alongside hefty players. Dickson pairs off with Hamish Smales, an ex-England Students, Counties and Sevens representative.

He is one of four part-time assistant referees, who oversee Championship games and run touch in the Premiership, sometimes over the same weekend.

Adam Leal is another of these promising up-and-comers. Over an inevitably healthy lunch in the canteen, he tells me about assisting Barnes, which he did at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday as Wasps welcomed Saracens.

Prior to his matches, Barnes routinely holds a conference call with his tough-judges and TMO. They have already prepared individually, studying team selection and analysing the props on show to pick up likely scrummaging patterns.

“This isn’t so we go in with a pre-conceived idea,” Leal stresses. “We just want to know what could happen. So, for instance, we knew that [Saracens tighthead] Vincent Koch and [Wasps loosehead] Ben Harris like to bind low. We thought there might be a few collapses, but it wasn’t a problem in the end.”

Leal believes Barnes can exude calm on match-day, answering fans’ photo requests on the way to the stadium, because of this diligence beforehand.

The next section of the day, a game review, illustrates what he means more fully. In a box overlooking the Twickenham pitch, Barnes is joined by Leal and the inimitable Tony Spreadbury. Foley, who had a rare Premiership round off, is there too. Like Barnes and Leal, he has watched the game back and made notes – yet more evidence of teamwork.

By this point, less than 24 hours after the final whistle, Barnes has submitted a report that goes to both teams as well as Spreadbury, his personal coach and the RFU’s head of referees. This outlines how he feels he has managed set-pieces, breakdowns, the offside line and “high-impact decisions” leading to tries, cards or an emotional spike. Now, with his own notes, he goes through footage of the match. The detail is staggering.

With a big screen pausing regularly – once every 45 seconds, on average – Leal and Barnes discuss the occasion as they saw it play out. Spreadbury and Foley chip in with questions and observations. Most soundbites focus on technicalities and on-field dialogue, but there are also enthusiastic comments of well-informed rugby fans. Throughout, accountability is palpable.

Barnes clarifies decisions and freely admits errors, voicing slight irritation at himself for missing an early clear-out from James Gaskell that goes too far beyond the ruck – not because it should have been penalised, but because mentioning it to Gaskell at the next stoppage may have set a stronger tone. He also highlights calls that he is pleased with, such as Owen Farrell’s yellow card, brandished authoritatively without consulting TMO Sean Davey.

Greyer areas and incidents that merit debate, like a muscular charge-down on Willie Le Roux from Michael Rhodes that might have drawn a penalty, are clipped out and sent to analyst Lewis Heathorn for the group session to come. The four officials in the room do not always agree. They also applaud players for intelligence that challenges law interpretation – such as Farrell draining the clock by taking 80 seconds of his allocated 90 to kick a conversion in the dying moments. Gamekeepers appreciating poachers – this is a refreshing impression to bring away from an exhaustive review that truly reflects rugby’s nuances.

Next, Barnes, Leal and Foley file out of the box. Spreadbury stays behind with the rest of the management group, among them national referee academy manager Chris White. They consider appointments for the next round of Premiership games.

“We’ve got to get the right man for the right game,” says Spreadbury. “Form is a consideration. That’s tough, but it’s the world we’re in.”

All of the referees return for the final part of the day. One by one, the six men who took charge of a Premiership fixture in round 13 offer a brief presentation, giving an overview of any flashpoints, team and player behaviours and trends that could extend later into the season. A couple of clips from each match are put to the floor for a fascinating debate that is frank yet collaborative. JP Doyle and Carley are both vocal and insightful.

Player safety and spectator experience are two constant concerns and their razor-sharp empathy with the sport is obvious. They know to watch out for opportunistic players drop-kicking guilty conversions because there might have been a knock-on in the build-up to a try. They realise they could miss a punch-up by running towards the posts after awarding a penalty try. They believe that subtle offences that do not overly affect the flow of a game often warrant a stern word rather than a penalty. Occasionally, a player who scraps hard and fair at the breakdown can be given the benefit of the doubt.

Tempest sums up this up brilliantly: “We could give 200 technical decisions in a game, I guess. Then nobody would come next week.” As scrutiny on referees continues to climb while rugby matures as a professional sport, it is worth remembering the standards these men and women expect of themselves and strive to achieve

And despite all this they still can't get a straight out-in at a scrum

Re: Article on Refgs
BackrowFlyhalf (IP Logged)
10 January, 2018 09:40
Good article, kind of makes a mockery of some of the referee's performances.

Re: Article on Refgs
mannin (IP Logged)
10 January, 2018 10:06
Tempest sums up this up brilliantly: “We could give 200 technical decisions in a game, I guess. Then nobody would come next week.” As scrutiny on referees continues to climb while rugby matures as a professional sport, it is worth remembering the standards these men and women expect of themselves and strive to achieve

True, but the same things are issues week in, week out. If they were dealt with properly, players wouldn't do them anymore. "Sealing off" at the ruck seems to be OK now as long as the game is quick and refs can skip giving penalties. The issue comes when (as in the Sale game a few weeks ago which got Steve Diamond in trouble) they let teams get away with it for 75 minutes but then scrutinise the last 5 and start giving things they haven't beforehand.

Re: Article on Refgs
Bedlington Lad (IP Logged)
10 January, 2018 10:06
i really must check my spelling more carefully!(Sm101)

Re: Article on Refgs
alas (IP Logged)
10 January, 2018 13:41
Got a young French referee on Sunday.

Newcastle Falcons vs Enisei-STM
@ Kingston Park
Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)
Assistant referees: Adrien Descottes (France), Eric Soulan (France)

Re: Article on Refgs
Yorksfalcon (IP Logged)
10 January, 2018 14:09
Would have loved to sit in on the review of the video of the chiefs game...

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