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Respecting the referee

Sandra McDonnell on rugby officials

After a weekend in the county, yesterday I finally got around to reading my copy of the latest The Rugby Paper, rugby union’s weekly newspaper.

One of its articles was a full-page diatribe by a regular contributor against the increasing preponderance of on-field chat/advice to the referee occurring in the professional game.

My impression is that, generally-speaking, the degree of respect shown to referees at all levels of the sport remains good. To mention a stereotypical contrast, you don’t get rugby players angrily berating the official after a contentious decision, as has happened not infrequently in soccer.

One of my favourite moments of rugby-watching was a referee incident during the Wales v Scotland Six Nations match at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on 12th February 2006.

Midway through the game, the large Scottish lock Scott Murray retaliated to a late tackle committed upon him by his Welsh counterpart Ian Gough by lashing out with his boot. Said offence was spotted by Southern Hemisphere referee Steve Walsh, who blew his whistle and called both players and their captains over. Outlining what he had seen, Walsh then said that he had no choice and reached into his pocket to yellow-card Gough and red-card Murray – the latter permanently out of the game. Without hesitation, Murray immediately offered his hand to Gough and, in turning to walk off, said “Sorry, sir …” to Walsh.

I also liked the approach of top Welsh referee Nigel Owens, who lets a game flow if he can, but also takes no lip.

Here’s a fun clip of him dealing with the scrum half of an Italian team in a European cup match a few years ago, courtesy of YouTube – NIGEL OWENS


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About Sandra McDonnell

As an Englishwoman married to a Scot, Sandra experiences some tension at home during Six Nations tournaments. Her enthusiasm for rugby was acquired through early visits to Fylde club matches with her father and her proud boast is that she has missed only two England home games at Twickenham since 1995. Sandra has three grown-up children, none of whom follow rugby. More Posts