Just as players have been made aware of the different sides to Steve Hansen, referees discovered yesterday that the All Black coach can be as cuddly as he is prickly.

The standard of refereeing has been a regular topic in this year's Rugby Championship - performances having been widely criticised and the competence of various individuals challenged.

But yesterday Hansen provided perspective, support and possible solutions to the continuing difficulties the world game has in finding referees who can deliver the sort of contest everyone is after.

"The game is difficult to ref," said Hansen.


"If I could do one thing in the game, I'd rip the rulebook up. I'd write another one and only put in the rules that are necessary. We have got so many of them that if you read the rulebook there is clause 5a, 2c... and then you read it and it doesn't even sound like English. It is a difficult game and the people that suffer the most are in the middle.

"I'm not sure that it is good having three different bosses either. A referee has a home base, either a Northern Hemisphere or Southern Hemisphere boss and then an IRB boss. So if they have got three different ideas then you have got three different messages coming to you.

"Going back to the laws again... a lot of the laws are what you see and interpret."

The last game against the Springboks at Ellis Park was, arguably, the best produced in the professional age and Welsh referee Nigel Owens has been acknowledged as playing a significant role in helping that contest flow and pass off without incident.

The prospect of being given him - still rated as the best in the world - every game is not realistic, but Hansen would like to see an element of consistency in some regards.

"The [IRB] are trying to get ready for the World Cup so they have got to get the referees big games.

"I'd like to see them [IRB] employ the top 10 refs and get them to do all the games. That way they would become better and more consistent and give them two touch judges for the year and say, 'right that is your team for the year and we will judge you as a team'.

"I don't think referees make great touch judges, simply because as a ref you follow the ball.


"As a touch judge you have to keep an eye on the whole, the various other things. So one other thing I'd probably do as well as rip up the rule book... I'd do that."

The IRB won't be willing to make any significant changes to the rulebook or employment structure of referees until after the World Cup.

But Hansen has provided a framework for discussion and ideas his fellow coaches would agree are worth exploring.