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World Rugby refereeing rethink: Head coaches and talent ID roles

By Ian Cameron
Referee Brendon Pickerill looks on ahead of the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Queensland Reds at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on May 26, 2023, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

World Rugby has announced a new strategy aimed at transforming the landscape of rugby union match officiating worldwide.

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Following the approval of a new global calendar and the expansion of the Rugby World Cups, this initiative introduces a structured approach to enhance the quality of officiating across the sport.

While the men’s Emirates World Rugby High Performance Match Officials structure will continue under the leadership of Elite Men’s Match Officials Manager Joël Jutge, two new head coaches are being added.

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Brendon Pickerill will take over as Elite Men’s 15s Match Officials head coach, while Joy Neville will take up the equivalent role as Elite Women’s 15s Match Officials head coach.

Phil Davies, serving as the director of rugby, oversees an expanded match officials management group that now includes a new talent identification manager, the aforementioned match official head coaches for men’s and women’s 15s, a women’s pathway manager, and support for officials from emerging nations.

The selection group for this structure will be chaired by World Rugby Executive Board member Brett Robinson, including independent selectors Dave McHugh and Mitch Chapman, along with Jutge, Pickerill, and Davies.

The women’s structure mirrors this approach, led by Elite Women’s Match Officials manager Alhambra Nievas and newly appointed Elite Women’s 15s Match Officials head coach Neville. Su Carty chairs the selection group, which also includes Andrew Macpherson and Wayne Erikson, alongside Nievas, Neville, and Davies.

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For sevens, the Elite Sevens Manager Paddy O’Brien is supported by High Performance Sevens Coach Craig Joubert, with John Lacey appointed as Talent Identification Manager for both men’s and women’s 15s.

The strategy also allows for specialist coaching support in areas such as scrum, lineout, performance, and mental well-being, involving experts like Alex Corbisiero and Richie Gray.

World Rugby say that an emphasis is placed on equality within the elite officiating structures for both men and women, ensuring a unified and integrated operation that promotes officials based on merit alone.

To support these objectives, the men’s and women’s officiating selection groups will be organized with independent chairs and selectors from both the northern and southern hemispheres, alongside the respective World Rugby referee managers.

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This strategy is set to be implemented across all major elite club competitions, adopting a data-driven performance management approach to ensure consistency in officiating standards, regardless of the competition’s location. The aim is to achieve clarity and uniformity across all competitions.

World Rugby Director of Rugby Phil Davies said: “Rugby is a sport built on collaboration and communication, and it is imperative that we have a truly unified, clear and consistent approach across match officiating regardless of country or competition. This is important for officials, players, coaches and fans.  

“This new strategy is an evolution, not revolution, but it does for the first time set us up for success, bringing all stakeholders – unions, coaches and players on to the same page regarding on-field focus, while implementing the foundation structures that will support match officials coming through the system and at the top as we accelerate into a new era for the sport.” 

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Abe 2 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

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Turlough 6 hours ago
Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss

First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

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