NIGEL OWENS: We should not change rugby’s laws, but must be stricter on refereeing them – including me! Teams are currently afraid to play so it’s time to clean up rucks, the chase kick and legal setup of mauls
- Most of the Autumn Nations Cup matches have been disappointing viewing
- There has been a lot aimless kicking and not much ball-in-hand attacking rugby
- As a referee, I hold my hands up with regards to officiating needing to improve
Anybody who says the recent games, particularly the Autumn Nations Cup, have been brilliant are not being very honest.
Some have been good, but most have been disappointing.
I wouldn’t be getting too worried, however, because even though there has been a lot of kicking there have been brilliant games like the Exeter v Racing 92 European Cup final.
There has been a lot aimless kicking during the Autumn Nations Cup to make it a dull affair
There is not much wrong with the laws if you have two teams who go out and play.
We should not change them, but must be stricter on refereeing them. I’m not blaming any other refs here — and I hold my hands up, too. But we need to be better and there are three areas we can clean up.
First, once the ball is available at a ruck referees must call ‘use it’ straight away and be strict on the five seconds teams have to play the ball.
There’s nothing illegal in the ‘caterpillar’ ruck but if a referee calls ‘use it’ when the ball is half-way down the caterpillar the attack has a long time to set up a box kick.
Something that could work is giving teams just three seconds to use the ball once we call ‘use it’, rather than five. And if we referee the offside line better, maybe they will not need caterpillar rucks.
Second, lots of kicks are chased by men in front of the kicker. We have not been good enough at refereeing that so defences cut down the time the attack has, forcing them to kick back.
As a referee, a lot that can be improved my end such as being stricter in applying rugby’s laws
Third, we have slacked off in refereeing the set-up of the maul so too many teams have players in front of the ball-carrier blocking the defence. That makes mauls pretty much impossible to defend without giving away penalties.
We need to give teams a fair chance of defending a maul. If they can it is not a foregone conclusion that a side scores from a five-metre lineout, which in turn will hopefully encourage attacks to move the ball out. Then we might see more tries scored by the backs.
At the moment sides are afraid to play and we as referees are not officiating well enough to encourage them. We all need to play a part.
A referee cannot make a bad game good, but he can contribute to the attitude of the game if the teams want to play.
However, if you have two teams who are negative and just want to win at all costs then, of course, we cannot do anything.
One thing I would clean is up the maul – we need to give teams a fair chance of defending it