Talking about refereeing ahead of the Super Rugby season, Lyndon Bray, the former Test referee who is now SANZAR's referee boss, spoke of the high standards set for referees.
The referees have again been told to make priorities of the Big Five - the tackle, the scrum, offside at the ruck, offside at the kick and obstruction. And Bray says: "We are expecting the referees to be 90% accurate."
Referees in all these matches will be carefully scrutinised and, contrary to the belief of many, action is taken against what is perceived to be substandard performance.
Bray said: "We don't publicise every change we make and I think that is very similar to players in the playing environment in that they can be shifted around and may make the team or might be on the reserve bench. For example we made up to 18 individual changes last year on what games referees had out in the middle.
"They may have moved from one week to another or within that weekend get shifted around. We do that to ensure that the form referees will be in charge of the games that will have the biggest impact on the competition or might be considered as hard games to referee which might be due to the local derby nature, the history between two teams or the atmosphere of a certain venue.
"We did of course make three changes to our squad last year and three referees did get dropped off. I think our team know that with the new measures they will know where they stand against the competition," he added.
At the tackle, referees are required to ensure a fair contest, raising the level of the ruck and ensuring that the ball-carrier's team-mates do not seal the ball off.
Bray said that they would like applied a three-second rule, i.e. that the ball be playable at a tackle after three seconds.
On the scrum Bray said: "The scrum is one of our real problem areas, we want to try and get to 70% of scrums actually completed on the first hit. What that means is that when we form a scrum we get through the four calls and we get the ball out. That 70% is a lofty goal because last year we were down to between 45 and 50% scrums completed on the first hit."
He went on to say: "Improving that scrum completion rate is a big focus for us as it is such an important area of the game. The IRB are running a major scrum project team that is expected to report back at the end of this year. We want to help that project by proving that having a hit in the scrum and a good physical contest is not only possible but can be done very positively.
"We know that we have made the scrum more safe but we need to improve the mechanism and ensure that we have quality ball coming out of the scrum."
He added: "There is quite a lot of pressure on players and referees to be more compliant in this area in 2012. We have used Balie Swart from South Africa, Patricia Noriega who is based in Australia and Mike Cron in New Zealand to work with not only the referees but also the teams to get better compliance and ensure that we get a lot closer to our goal."
Bray stressed that at rucks players of both sides needed to be behind the offside line. There should be fewer than five occasions in a match where players stand in front of the line
Bray says that the emphasis on patrolling offside lines at kicks has given teams more space and reduced the amount of kicking. " In 2009 we had more than 72 kicks per game in Super Rugby and we are now down to 42 kicks per game average."
At the maul referees needed to be attentive to the legalities of its formation and the legality of attempts to counter the maul.
Bray said that there was an increase of emphasis on the 'team of three' - the referee and his two assistants in working together to see that decisions are accurate, clear and obvious.
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