Sport / Columnists

Jon Swift
2 minute read
29 Mar 2017
3:27 pm

View from the front row skewed against refs

Jon Swift

It would be dishonest in the extreme to put forth the proposition that the Perennial Prop Forward has the milk of human kindness flowing through his veins when it comes to the subject of referees.

Jon Swift

Accuse him of bias if you will but you cannot claim he is inconsistent. He despises them all – or more specifically their rulings on front row play – equally.

“One of the major problems rugby faces when referees tend to manage games rather than blowing infringements, is their almost universal ignorance of what is really happening in the front row,” is his oft repeated mantra which is regularly interspersed with loud cries of “No, MAN!” when he considers the man with the whistle has got it wrong in this highly technical area.

Referees, his considered opinion runs, would be far better off offering the advice Roman Poite handed England’s players in the Six Nations game against Italy when they queried the Azzurri refusing to commit players to the breakdown. “I’m a referee, not your coach,” Poite pointed out.

“I’ll be the first to admit that being a prop is a specialised job,” the Perennial Prop said, returning to the subject at hand, “and that it is often far easier to judge things like knock-ons, forward passes and infringements in the lineouts,” he offered.

“But while the technology is there to rule on dangerous and unfair tackles and issuing penalties or cards in these cases, things which are not running smoothly in the engine-room of the setpiece don’t get the same treatment. I don’t really know but the powers-that-be at World Rugby probably don’t deem this as part of the referee’s job description or an area which can be examined by the TMO.

“If this is the case – and I strongly suspect it is so simply for the time it would take in reviewing them – the authorities have got it 100% wrong. A couple of reviews on troublesome scrummaging would quickly explain where the problems lie and assist the referee far more accurately than any opinion voiced from the sideline.

“Besides, these are penalisable offences which are being passed over on any number of occasions, quite apart from an illegally collapsed scrum being potentially far more dangerous than many of the high tackles which are blown up. A loosehead deliberately dropping the bind is a penalty. And a whole front row crashing to the ground – hard, I have to add – can cause some lasting, long-term injuries. Simply ruling that the scrum has collapsed and resetting it cannot even vaguely be the answer. The referees need to catch a wake-up.”

There is another facet to this that the Perennial Prop – ironically, a man who still carries his kit in the boot on the off-chance he might get a run in a Golden Oldies game – believes strongly in. “A lot of front row forwards go on far too long,” he said.

“One of the saddest sights to see is a forward, who might have been a great player in his day, being buckled like a wet rag. “But being in the front row is a bit like an addiction… just one more game.”