Context to be considered in foul play rulings

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Monday, August 20, 2018    Getty Images

New Zealand Rugby Head of Referees Bryce Lawrence said that player safety remains paramount and deliberately dangerous acts would be dealt with accordingly.

“There has been much debate internationally about the application of the laws regarding foul play,” said Lawrence.

“At a time when rugby around the world is continually seeking to improve the game without compromising player safety, we support the laws to ensure clear messaging and consistency by match officials. 

“Clearly in the June Test window some decision making has irked some fans and teams who feel that more rugby context should be considered in this decision-making”.

“We are taking advantage of our own national provincial competitions to introduce an interpretation that maintains player safety as a priority, but allows the intent of the ‘action’ and the ‘context of the game’ to determine the sanctions for any foul play.

“We want referees to bring some more rugby feel to how they rule foul play,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said that areas referees will focus on are no change from previous years - including lifting tackles, deliberate contacts to the head (high tackles), deliberate knock ons, illegal dangerous clean outs, challenges in the air where there is not a fair contest, cynical play, and repeat individual or team offending.

The interpretations for New Zealand referees in the Mitre 10 Cup, Farah Palmer Cup, Mitre 10 Heartland Championship and Jock Hobbs Under 19’s will allow them to consider foul play under the following guidelines:

• If the action is deliberate and dangerous and with force = RED CARD.
• If the action is reckless but still dangerous but with limited/mild force = YELLOW CARD.
• If the action is unintentional and low level = Penalty only.

“By asking referees to understand the game context, the players action and the intent, not solely on ‘process’ we hope we can achieve better results for players, coaches and fans in 2018,” he said.

As has been the practise for several years, TMOs in the domestic competitions will be sideline at Mitre 10 Cup and Farah Palmer Cup fixtures.

The referee is the only person who can refer to TMO for try scoring or foul play. When the referee wants to check if a try is scored they will make an onfield decision that is either confirmed or overturned by the TMO. 
For the TMO to over turn the on field decision they must have compelling evidence.

Where the referee refers an incident of foul play to the TMO, the TMO will put the replays onto the big screen and the referee will own the decision. If there is no big screen the TMO will explain the facts to the refeee based on what he/she has seen and the referee will make the final decision.

Four referees will debut in the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup; Tim Griffiths (Manawatu), Nick Hogan (Wellington), Tipene Cotrell (Hawke’s Bay), and Nick Webster (North Otago). In a continuation of a development exchange programme with Japan, Shuhei Kubo from Japan will join the domestic competition referees this year.

New Zealand’s group of professional referees will manage 50 per cent of matches, with provincial unions assigning ARs and TMOs.