Rugby: Super 15 refs trial league system

By Dylan Cleaver

Greg Peters has confirmed Sanzar's support for the trial of the new judicial rules. Photo / Getty Images
Greg Peters has confirmed Sanzar's support for the trial of the new judicial rules. Photo / Getty Images

A league-style "on report" system will be introduced to the Super 15 this year.

The trial, to be closely monitored by the IRB, has the twin aims of making referees' lives easier on the field and achieving more consistency in the judicial rooms afterwards.

The system will give referees the chance to report a player for a judicial hearing if foul play is suspected.

Sanzar, which controls Super 15 and the newly formed Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri-Nations), is the first organisation to embrace the trial.

"It is correct that Sanzar will be trialling new judicial rules during the 2012 Super rugby tournament, with the approval of the IRB," chief executive Greg Peters told the Weekend Herald. "We are presently putting the final touches on these rules and will be making an announcement to internal and external stakeholders early next week."

Referees were briefed on the changes at a forum in Sydney last week. While red cards are a rarity in the NRL, with referees placing players on report rather than handing out the ultimate on-field sanction, Super 15 referees will still be encouraged to reach for their cards when they spot clear foul play.

To use the recent World Cup as an example, the new system would have had zero effect on the Wales-France semifinal. The sending-off of Wales captain Sam Warburton caused much angst in the Valleys, but referee Alain Rolland had a clear view and was in no doubt the incident warranted a red card.

The report system could have saved a lot of stress, however, in a vital Pool D clash, when Paul Williams was sent off by Nigel Owens on the strength of a tenuous open-handed slap that Springbok flanker Heinrich Brussow made a meal of.

Under the report system, Owens, who obviously suspected Williams had transgressed, could have avoided the ultimate penalty while ensuring the Samoa fullback still had a case to answer in front of the judiciary.

The report system will put more onus on referees and less on citing commissioners to mop up foul play.

Under the old rules a citing commissioner had 12 hours from the end of the match to cite a player. Any player who had been red-carded or had accumulated three yellow cards was automatically required to attend a hearing.

Opposing teams had four hours from the conclusion of the match to refer an incident to the citing commissioner for consideration.

Whether the citing commissioner's powers remain the same under the new report system is yet to be determined, but it is almost certain the referees will hand them more cases to consider.

The biggest goal the IRB and Sanzar are looking to achieve with the new rules is to get consistency at the judiciary table.

While the judiciary is meant to be independent and free of bias, it has been difficult to shake the perception that players whose cases are heard in their own country are treated more leniently than those heard overseas.

Setting uniform penalties for a variety of charges is an obvious step on the path of removing those suggestions of "hometown bias".

- NZ Herald

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