SHAUN EDWARDS: Rigid referees keep casual rugby fans away – officials need more leeway
SHAUN EDWARDS: Rigid referees keep casual rugby fans away – officials need more leeway around red and yellow cards… and England fans shouldn’t panic despite recent concerns
- It’s clear that referees need more leeway when it comes to red and yellow cards
- We are seeing many incidents of players protesting to get the attention of the referees
- The system is too rigid, which is not effective for casual sports fans
Sometimes the best advice comes from people who know nothing about the game.
When I was a player I had a terrible season when I lost my place in the Great Britain rugby league team. There was a guy working at the race track and he said to me, ‘You’re not as aggressive as you used to be, are you?’
He didn’t know much about rugby but his words really stuck with me and within months I was back in the team.
Clearly rugby referees need to have more leeway around red and yellow cards
I had a similar experience on weekends when I had a few friends over to watch the games. They don’t watch much rugby, but they swing between sports and one of them said to me: ‘The problem with rugby, Shaun, is that the referees get more TV than the players.
That put them off, and that’s the kind of neutral fans the sport needs to attract.
There was one red card and two yellow cards in England’s game against Australia. Rugby is not an easy game to referee, but we have fantastic referees. I just think they need to have a bit more leeway around red and yellow cards.
The focus on referees can be off-putting to casual viewers of the sport
As referees follow a strict formula, we see players protesting for their attention
Right now, if you hit someone on the head, it’s a red card. Obviously the game has to be safe, but I think the system is too rigid.
Because referees now follow a strict formula around cards, we see players protesting to bring incidents to their attention. I fear that too many players will call every time there is a small contact.
It’s like football where the players raise their arms in the air. It’s not rugby, is it? I’m afraid we’re at a tipping point.
People ask me how France won the Six Nations and the first thing I say is that we didn’t receive any red or yellow cards. Most fans would like to see fewer cards in the game.
People pay a lot of money to watch a test match and I’m sure they would rather watch 15 vs 15. I just hope they don’t start voting with their feet.
DON’T PANIC, ENGLAND
My message to English fans would be that you are not too far away. Eddie Jones has plenty of heat after a couple of straight losses, but things may soon change. Believe me, I’ve been there.
When I coached Wales, we lost to Australia 11 times in a row, by roughly one score each time. Everyone was talking about mentality and hoodoos. In 2019, the year of the World Cup, we beat them twice when it counted.
Eddie Jones has faced a lot of criticism recently but things can change very quickly
This is how quickly things can change. England do not lose Test matches by 30 or 40 points. They lost by relatively small margins, regardless of the Baa-Baath game.
When I joined France, we won and lost big games by one point. If you’re within that range, you’re on your way to turning losses into wins.
Sounds simple, but the key to winning in international rugby is keeping the opposition out of your 22. You need to stop giving Australia penalties because that’s when they kick kick for alignment and launches an attack.
SORRY CAMPO, THE GAME HAS CHANGED
I read David Campese’s interview in Sportsmail last Saturday and am still wary of former players looking at the game through rose-tinted glasses.
He wants to see counterattack tries but the game has changed since the 80s and 90s.
I’m partly to blame because I introduced the 13-2 defense – where you have 13 front row players and two full-backs – which makes it difficult to score on the counterattack.
There are more tries now than there have ever been in international rugby, but most of them come from mauls or pick-and-gos.
Lots of tries are scored and they are worth so many points.
Players don’t celebrate any less simply because they haven’t kicked the ball in their own 22.
LETHAL FINISHER REGAN GRACE READY TO IMPRESS FOR 92 RACE
It was interesting to see Regan Grace switch codes this week and sign for Racing 92. I watched Regan from afar and he became an exceptional league player.
Playing on the Racing lawn with Gael Fickou and Virimi Vakatawa will suit him. He is a very tough boy and he is extremely fast. His finish is deadly. I’m very excited to see how he’s doing.