New Zealand Rugby referees boss Bryce Lawrence has praised the All Blacks coaching staff for their work in helping all parties come to grips with how Super Rugby Aotearoa is being officiated.
The World Rugby-led initiative around how the breakdown is being officiated has come under plenty of criticism since the opening round of Super Rugby Aotearoa, with games riddled by penalties as players and referees get a handle on the changes.
However, every round has seen the penalty count decreased substantially.
Speaking to the Herald, Lawrence said being able to connect with the All Blacks coaches for their observations is proving to be an asset for the competition.
"They're really useful for our referees' group because we can look at things from a refereeing lens and they can look at it from a playing and a coaching lens," Lawrence said.
"They share that with us and they help us interpret what we're doing and where we need to improve so the All Blacks coaches are fully aligned and absolutely brilliant."
In particular, the referees and All Blacks coaching have been working together around the spacing of the game and the officiating at the breakdown, with the latter being an area that has drawn criticism through the opening rounds.
In round one of the competition, a total of 58 penalties were awarded across the two games. The number dropped to 49 in rounds two, and 33 in round three.
While teams and referees are getting more comfortable with the adaptations, Lawrence said lowering the penalty count is not something the refereeing group is prioritising.
"I don't know if that's going to be what we can expect every week. The challenge is really from the coaches to the referees is to just referee what the game needs. We don't have any pre-planned views around what the penalty count should be, just referee what the game needs.
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"There's no script for every game and the challenge for the referee really is to referee what's in front of them – that could mean 15 penalties; it could mean 25 penalties. Whatever it is, I'm relaxed as long as the referee is really delivering what the game needs.
"The challenge is really to just get technically accurate and understand what the game needs. We're not perfect with our accuracy at the moment, but we're working hard to get better at that and understand that, and that's the same in any game of rugby. You're never really going to be perfect technically. Tactically, we have to make smart decisions around what the game is showing us and what the game needs. We're working really hard.
"We all know where we're going, we all know what we want it to look like, and the players, coaches and referees are all on the same page with that."