Nigel Owens famously told a player that ‘this is not soccer’ and according to reports, rugby’s referees want to keep it that way.

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It’s been reported by the Telegraph that referees have been told to come down hard on football style backchat from players in this year’s Natwest Six Nations.

Referees have been directed to use penalties, yellow cards and to march back players for backchat and unsporting conduct towards other players. Such behaviour, which is now the norm in Association Football, has become more common in rugby union in recent years, and authorities are keen to bring it under control.

According to Gavin Mairs in the Telegraph: “It is understood the directive was agreed at referee meetings on the past two Wednesdays, the first of which also involved the Six Nations head coaches in London, the second of which was held at Heathrow airport.”

It’s a problem that is not new, but it is one that is apparently getting worse.

Back in 2007 the then IRB said that “match officials would enforce a zero-tolerance policy when it came to players disputing decisions on the field.”

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Then IRB chief executive, Mike Miller spoke of a “growing trend of players continually questioning and disputing referee decisions.”

“The message from the IRB has not changed. Back-chat and arguing with a match official will not be tolerated, nor will any attempt to influence a referee or slow down the match through questioning the referee.”

Now, eleven years later, the message remains unchanged but the ‘backchat’ continues to grow.

Dylan Hartley was infamously sent off in the 2013 Aviva Premiership Final by Wayne Barnes after Hartley called him a ‘****ing cheat’, the first red card ever issued in a Premiership Final.

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