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Referees to train with Super Rugby sides as part of new NZR initiative

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises will have an extra man at training this year following a new initiative from New Zealand Rugby [NZR].

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One referee has been assigned to each of the country’s five teams, with Brendon Pickerill joining the Blues, Mike Fraser the Chiefs, Ben O’Keeffe the Hurricanes, Paul Williams the Crusaders, and James Doleman the Highlanders.

The five officials won’t referee any games involving the respective team they are assigned to, with Blues head coach Leon MacDonald labelling the move by NZR as “fantastic”.

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“I’m really excited by it. All the clubs have got a referee attached to them as part of the club, so Brendon’s part of the Blues team,” MacDonald told reporters earlier this week.

“His job’s to help us understand the laws and help us be better, and our job’s to help him train and be better. He won’t referee any of our games, but those refs, they have it difficult.

“They train by themselves, all their running and their fitness, their reviews, are all done at home by themselves, so he’ll get into the middle of our trainings and he looks at pictures and he can review trainings like we do as players.

“He’s got the same opportunity to prepare every week as a player does, which is just going to make him better. A great initiative and I think it’s smart by New Zealand Rugby and the referees to do so, so some positive stuff around the referees.”

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MacDonald made note of the benefit the Blues will have by having Pickerill onboard when it comes to understanding the laws of the game.

“We want to know where the letter of the law is because we want to play up to it, but it’s good to have him here instead of us guessing to sometimes find out, so it’s definitely a positive move.”

The Blues will open Super Rugby Pacific when they take on cross-town rivals Moana Pasifika at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on February 18.

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