The Metro Referees were delighted to welcome Marius van der Westhuizen to their meeting on Tuesday night. Marius was in Dublin to take charge of the Ireland v Canada game. It was great to have Marius at the meeting and he answered some questions in a thought provoking way. For instance, when asked about maintaining concentration on the pitch, he talked about just focusing on the “next good decision” and not getting caught up in what had gone before.
When his training schedule allows, he still seeks out, and looks forward to, refereeing U 13 matches, which he treats with the same respect as a test match. “For the players, it is every bit as important as a test match is to the test players.” He also uses U-13 matches to consciously work on minor tweaks to his own game, and experiment a bit, since the speed of top level rugby does not allow the time to do so.
Some thought provoking writing from Planet Rugby.
A couple of seasons ago, a game of rugby wasn’t complete without at least one tip-tackle. Referees would bring proceedings to a clattering stop as gratuitous slow-mo replays were examined, officious eyes scanning for the exact moment in which the head of the tackled player dipped below the horizontal level of the hips. There were yellow cards galore. Tip-tackles are rarer beasts these days, which can only be a good thing. The fear of the sin-bin has seen them all but coached out of the game, with players instructed to adjust their tackling technique.
Aiming at the waist area is now out for fear of the laws of physics: there’s a chance players might cart-wheel right over one’s shoulder. The new target is somewhere around the sternum: get your hit in there and tackled hips are guaranteed to remain lower than heads. In other words, players are being coached to go higher, and – how should we put this? – it’s obvious that some teams have better coaches than others.
The risk in going low is that you go too low, springing an accidental tip-tackle – and a yellow card. Equally, the risk of going high is that you go too high, springing a head injury as one’s shoulder rides up and into a face. But where are the yellow cards?
Deprived of the definitive hips-to-head horizon, officials appear to be giving tacklers the benefit of the doubt. Case in point: the conversation between referee Jaco Peyper and TMO Jon Mason as Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw lay unconscious on the Dublin turf on Saturday.
“Is he trying to wrap or not?” asks Peyper, referring to the arm dangling from Sam Cane’s leading shoulder.
“Yes he is,” concludes Mason, deftly switching from his monitors to clairvoyance mode.
But intentions are utterly irrelevant. It might well have been an accident, but Cane hit Henshaw high. That’s got to be the trigger, surely. If it ends high, it’s high. It should be that simple.
Just as with the eradication of the tip-tackle, rugby’s troublesome new epidemic requires little more than a liberal application of red and yellow cards – and the guts to administer the medicine.
Contego Sports N-Pro head guard
World Rugby has confirmed that the Contego Sports N-Pro head guard may not be used at any level of the game as the product has not yet been independently and rigorously trialled or tested in a competition environment. It does not currently comply with World Rugby Regulation 12 or Law 4.
Given the potential advertised player welfare benefits of the product, World Rugby is examining the possibility of implementing a controlled trial to test the product’s safety and performance independently and robustly. It is intended that data from this trial will provide evidence to allow a responsible recommendation to be made on the product’s efficacy.
With player welfare at its heart, this is a standard process of due diligence and is implemented whenever a medical product featuring new technology has been developed. A successful outcome would result in the product being awarded the necessary ‘approved by World Rugby’ mark.
Throughout the product’s development, the manufacturer has been aware that until such a scientific approval process has been undertaken, World Rugby cannot permit the use of the N-Pro product in competition at any level.
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