Wayne Barnes suggests changes to World Rugby to help ‘the game to flow more’

Colin Newboult
Former referee Wayne Barnes smiling.

Former referee Wayne Barnes smiling.

Ex-international referee Wayne Barnes has identified the areas that World Rugby could improve, to both benefit the officials and the game.

Barnes was discussing the weekend’s events in the Six Nations during a Q&A session on the Telegraph website, which included questions about scrums, breakdown and the complexities of the game.

Helping the attack

The Englishman wants the governing body to give the attacking team more leniency at the breakdown after being asked why referees officiate it in different ways.

“It’s important to remember no game is ever the same,” Barnes wrote. “A game with jackallers like Tommy Reffell and Sam Underhill brings a lot more challenges for not only the referee but the opposition too.

“International referees are asked to referee only the clear and obvious offences, but I’d love World Rugby to really emphasise the message to their referees that they should only penalise the attack at the breakdown if the defence is squeaky clean.”

Meanwhile, the scrum remains a bone of contention, with the referees seemingly struggling to enforce the new law which requires it to be set up quicker.

Scrum solution

Barnes, however, has a possible solution to that issue before going on to address how they could stop the resets, which also slows down the game.

“The laws already state that teams must be ready to form the scrum within 30 seconds of the mark being made, so I think it is worth exploring the use of a ‘shot clock’ to ensure teams are ready to scrummage within that half a minute,” he added.

“Player welfare still must remain the referee’s priority and so there would be times when the scrum would have to be stopped if a front-row player was injured or needed treatment.

“I’d also love World Rugby to encourage referees to make decisions at the scrum, don’t wait for a reset, make early decisions.

“That would mean that teams, commentators and spectators would have to realise that this will mean a few more errors from match officials. Try watching a scrum and making a decision without a replay; it’s pretty difficult.”

Finding a balance

The nature of rugby means that there are arguably offences at every phase, but it is the job of the referee to find that balance between letting the game flow and getting the consistency in decision-making.

“Referees should look for reasons not to blow their whistle,” Barnes added.

“So that’s what I would do if I was in charge of international match officials. I’d encourage referees not to go looking for technicalities and allow the game to flow more.

“But as a fan, that means you have to buy into that too and not criticise a referee for missing a technical infringement which is only clear on replay!”

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