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Former top ref Andre Watson has message for today's crop of officials

By Chris Jones

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Former top official Andre Watson believes current international referees are too sensitive to criticism while they are happy to accept praise and the benefits that come with the role.

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Criticism of referees has been brought sharply into focus by the World Rugby investigation in Rassie Eramus’a hour-long video in which he highlighted mistakes made by referee Nic Berry in the Springboks’ 22-17 first Test loss to the British & Irish Lions in July.

According to Rapport, Watson, who took charge of two Rugby World Cup finals, believes that international referees have to take responsibility for their actions and accept that criticism comes with the territory. “My feeling has always been, and still is, that if referees want to blow at that level, they have to take responsibility for their actions,” said Watson who had the whistle for the violent World Cup final between Australia and France in 1999 and England’s extra-time victory against Australia in 2003.

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“Along with the recognition, money and benefits also comes criticism and it does not make sense to me that recognition and praise are accepted by referees and their bosses, but not criticism. Or at least not in public. It comes with the territory. I feel the referees are too sensitive about this.

“My opinion is that rugby can only improve and the supporters, coaches, players and officials will better understand referees’ performances and will accept referees more if there is more transparency. The open and honest communication between referee and coach is very important,” he said.

Watson was also in charge of seven Currie Cup finals as well as five Super Rugby finals. Watson announced his retirement from test rugby prior to the July 2004 match between Australia and the Pacific Islanders. He made a comeback three months later, refereeing the first match of the qualification round for 2007 Rugby World Cup between Andorra and Norway. He also served as Manager of Referees for the South African Rugby Union.

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