Greeting, GAGRs, and happy Monday to you all! Not too much to discuss as there is a brief hiatus between TRC and the AIs. We’ve seen the Wallabies squad named for the AI tour, some European action and World Cup qualifiers and some thought on the upcoming AI fixtures from a referees’ perspective.
The squad has been named and there aren’t really many surprises or bolters. If anything, the surprises came from who was left behind. As a firm believer in Dave Rennie, I will assume that there has been clear and direct feedback provided to those who are staying in Oz. Certainly players like Lolesio and McReight may well feel slightly hard done by; however, the parallel is that it’s a four game series where the game time, pending any injury, would have been insignificant. I appreciate that there is an opportunity for face-to-face learning, but this would have come in the last two months in camp. A mental respite for these young players, all of whom have a long career ahead, mixed in with a solid pre-season, certainly won’t hurt. Some surprise inclusions for me were Connal McInerney (pleasantly), Izaia Perese (OK I see why) and Lalakai Foketi (WTF).
At risk of being dubbed a ‘hater’ for the second week in a row, I’m not (yet) convinced that Will Skelton is any sort of answer. Whilst he appeared the goods playing for Saracens and now La Rochelle, his abilities in the air are still, for me, questionable. I appreciate that he is still a big lad (even in his trimmed down state) and would provide a decent shove in the pack, is he really any sort of answer to our current woes in the line out? Similar, Tolu Latu is not the sort of player that made headlines for any good reason and ‘took the cash’ as soon as an offer came in. The only European-based player selected, of any worth, is Rory Arnold. Excellent in the lineout and, perhaps just as importantly, in the defensive maul, he will be invaluable. It will be interesting to see if Arnold and Swain have a chance to play together as McKellar has definitely nurtured both players.
I had a wander around the park with my pooch on Saturday and happened to come across a fellow VRRA referee. The topic of central contracting (See the Australian article) came up after we discussed the make-up of the squad heading overseas and why this is definitely a step in the right direction. We both agreed that, despite the case for operating similarly to other nations, we still must be original and based purely on the needs of Australian rugby.
Two premises were clear:
- That the hoarding of players of one position was detrimental to Australia. Whilst we agreed that it was excellent for known, strong pathways (currently the Ponies and Reds) to sign players, it was not in anyone’s long-term interests (and perhaps even short-time) to have players fighting for position either due to where the Super coach wanted them (Petaia as one example) or because there are a plethora of players already there (think Lolesio/BK/Pasitoa and White/Lonergan/Fines/Albert)
- That there has to be a smart way to contract the bigger name players to overseas clubs thus having them pay for part of their salary and leaving extra dosh in our kitty. I touched on this last week with contracting and I still think that forming official relationships with Japanese clubs is the ideal way forward. There have been the beginnings of this with sponsorship from Japan as well as friendly games proposed between Super and Top League sides.
What was most interesting within the article is that the proposed model now has the support of all five super sides. I can only guess (though I daresay I’d be right….. *cough Tahs cough*) at which side would have held out. Now that they’re all in the fold and being orchestrated in one voice by McLennan. Further, this leads to further indication that private equity is on its way in.
European Rugby and RWC Qualifiers
For the first time in RWC history, Canada won’t be present. Their aggregate loss to Chile has eliminated them from contention after their two matches (22-21 win and a 33-24 loss). Furthermore, Los Teros (Uruguay) have succeeded in becoming ‘Americas 1’ after defeating the USA (50-34 aggregate).
If you have a spare 80-odd minutes, I would highly suggest having a Stan Sports gander at Quins v Bristol in the Premiership. The quality of rugby, as well as the spirit in which it was played, was absolutely alive and well at The Stoop. With Wayne Barnes, for mine the pre-eminent referee in the world at present, in charge, we were down for a doozy. And did the match deliver! I won’t spoil it too much, but watching a prop score his first meat pie in a 134-game career with the filthiest of dummies and the equivalent of a 100m run was rugby bliss…. Even if it will cost him his FRU membership. Well worth it!
The URC continues to throw up some good matches; however, damned if I’m paying AUD$200 to watch a product that is only available on web pages and not on a TV app. Not that I have that much time anyway and when highlights are freely available… :)
Refereeing in the Autumn Internationals
Without seeing the list of appointments, and pending Covid restrictions and travel (e.g. Kiwi referees may not go due to MIQ places, etc.), this is the time in the RWC cycle that the emerging crop of referees will have their opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in pressure cooker matches. Currently, there is a list of 10 referees who, pending major form or injury woes, I believe would be relatively certain to feature with the whistle in France in 2023. They are:
- Wayne Barnes (RFU)
- Matt Carley (RFU)
- Luke Pearce (RFU)
- Jaco Peyper (SARU)
- Nic Berry (RA)
- Gus Gardner (RA) (injured in 2020)
- Paul Williams (NZRU)
- Ben O’Keeffe (NZRU)
- Romain Poite (FFR)
- Mat Raynal (FFR)
I would expect that these referees would control some of the bigger fixtures in the calendar e.g. Barnes for New Zealand v France (hahaha irony noted). Luke Pearce, Jaco Peyper and Matt Carley may have a break as they have come off a decent slog down under and certainly demonstrated their abilities. Others may or may not be restricted by travel.
In most years, the optimum number of referees at a RWC has been 12. That said, World Rugby isn’t averse to having less (10 in 2015) or more (earlier years) officiate. For me though, 12 is the sweet number as it (from memory and at 2245 on a Sunday night… “quick mafs”) corresponds with the amount of pool matches available for each referee (three for each referee).
Some of the possibles/improbables/bolters (in no particular order below… only as I remembered them) may well get their chance in the Autumn Internationals. Some of these referees include:
- Andy Brace (IRU)
- Frank Murphy (IRU)
- Karl Dickson (RFU)
- Mike Adamson (SRU)
- Marius vd Westhuizen (SARU) (previously in the top panel until mysteriously dropped)
- AJ Jacobs (SARU)
- Craig Evans (WRU)
- Brendon Pickerill (NZRU)
- Damon Murphy (RA)
- Graham Cooper (RA)
- Pierre Brousset (FFR)
- Ludovic Cayre (FFR)
- Nika Amushukeli (GRU)
Whilst the name of the referee for many of you is (rightly) ‘Sir/Miss’, (or ‘Get ’em onside!….. Fuck you!!) there is definite interest for me (therefore for you today) as it could well inform how the game will be refereed over the next 12-24 months. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but watching some of the premiership rugby has been nourishing. Again, I’ll harp on about the Bristol v Quins game and Mr Barnes in charge. FUCKING FINALLLY a referee officiated the clear release at the tackle/ruck and, low and behold, a cracking game ensued. Further, clear and consistent interpretation around the ‘holding on’, as well as decent advantage, allowed a really bloody good game.
Finally, a quick shout out to the players and officials at the Darwin Hottest Sevens. You’re all fucking nuts. Rugby is a winter sport….!!
Right, folks. That’s all from me. Happy reading and yippee for Monday!