Referee Coaching Guidance

USA Rugby has issued the following guidance to national referee coaches, which provides a good take on things worth watching out for in the “industrial” trenches. Please note on “3. Ball Out” (it is out when the ball is cleared), that while rugby is moving toward this standard, the official a USA Rugby policy for when the ball is out is still when it is under control. For our local rugby, please continue to follow the policy outlined in the 2013 Game Management Guidelines.

+ Higher Standards and Statement Penalties to communicate expectations to players, rather than giving the breakdown breathing room in an attempt to create flow.
+ Facilitate quick ball and contest: Tackler to release, Tackler Assist to show clear release and through the gate, no Sealing.
+ Balance: Consistency throughout creating an environment where both teams feel they can compete fairly.
+ Manage Effectively: Reduce repeated infringements environment with stronger and controlled management.
+ Communication: Players know the Laws/expectations – no talking required, if you need to say “release, roll away, etc.” they have probably already slowed the recycle. You may instruct closer to the goal line to facilitate a score if it will be beneficial.

+ Slow and Consistent Engagement Procedure, no rushing.
+ Square & Steady: Manage and eliminate the 15º pre-put-in wheel by the defense.
+ Wheeling: Is allowed and the front rows need to be through 90º, however, there has to be a forward shove by the team and not walking the scrum around. (45-degrees for U-19 and reset – no turn-over).
+ Straight Put-in: Expectations should be increased to ensure a straight put-in and manage the early foot in the tunnel.
+ Dominant Scrum: A legally dominant scrum should be rewarded. This means they have to be binding correctly and pushing straight. Unbinding (and standing up) should be penalized.

o Ruck/Scrum: One or two hands on the ball when the ball.
o Ruck/Scrum: When bodies are over the ball
+ OUT:
o Ruck/Scrum: When the ball is cleared, no bodies over the ball.

+ To be Enforced Strictly:
o Last line of feet: Nothing marginal, defenders to be clearly behind the last line of feet
o Kick Ahead: No offside player may advance until they are put onside

+ Practical Approach:
o Indicate that you saw the infringement, then decide whether to play Advantage or No Advantage.
o When playing advantage give it enough room to develop, no reason to rush the “Advantage Over” call.
o The game at the national level is fast and you should allow opportunity for Advantage to accrue.

+ Process:
o Avoid over-reacting, this is rugby and it is a physical game.
1. Separate teams.
2. Take a moment to clear your mind.
3. If you have an AR then you should talk to them to see if they have another perspective of the incident.
4. Assess the outcome of the incident, I.e. Injury.
5. Assess the players/teams’ reactions, I.e. Confrontational and aggressive, or calm and relaxed
o A Red Card offense is a Red Card offense and should be refereed accordingly, but ensure you have followed the process to the decision and not just reacted.

Richard Every | High Performance Referee Manager | USA Rugby

Notes to D1A College Referees – Week 1


We’re into Week 2. Please review notes from Week 1.

Breakdown Standards: Set your standards early so that players can be aware what expectations are.
Breakdown Positioning: It is important to be the third person at the tackle to be in the best position to see it unfold. I am attaching the breakdown positioning PDF and here is a short video of good breakdown positioning – it is easy when you get it right:
Offside: Manage fringes and back lines. If players have their hands on the ground the hands should be behind the last line of feet.
Scrum Put in: Being on the opposite side of the scrum it appears you have less presence to manage the #9’s. If you move to the putting in side, tap the 9 on the shoulder to proceed to put the ball in. (Note: this directive does not apply to U-19 play, where a verbal signal is expected.)
Scrum Wheel: Do not allow teams to walk the scrum around. They have to be pushing forward and if it then wheels through 90º, then turn over the scrum.
Foul Play: Poor breakdown = more bodies = more aggression = foul play.
Kick-Off: Players should not be in front of the kicker at the kickoff. Every kickoff you should raise your arm to remind them to remain behind the ball. If not, then bring them back for the option.
Offside at Kicks: Space is key.

Richard Every
USAR High Performance Referee Manager

New Scrum Engagement Communication

February 27, 2014 – Bold emphasis added.

BOULDER, Colo. – The USA Rugby Rugby Committee voted to adopt the IRB’s newest revision to the ongoing scrum engagement global trial: non-verbal communication to indicate to the scrumhalf when the ball can be placed into the scrum.

Effective March 1 at all college and club matches, referees will discuss in the front-row briefing with scrumhalves how the touching should be accomplished and what the signal will be. Typically, the touch is either in the middle of the back – between the shoulder blades – or on the shoulder. The signal can be a thumbs-up, a nod, or play-on gesture, but must be demonstrated to the scrumhalves prior to the start of each match.

The “yes, nine” verbal call will still be utilized at the U19/high school level and younger.
(Note: a video showing the scrum engagement sequence for U-19 and under can be viewed at: Crouch-Bind-Set Scrum Video

The decision to implement the non-verbal communication at all levels of adult rugby was reached after input was received from all levels of the game in the U.S.A. as to what each community would prefer.

Below is the IRB announcement regarding the revision to the ongoing scrum trial.

IRB further empowers referees at scrums

In a minor revision to the current protocol surrounding the ongoing scrum engagement global trial, the International Rugby Board has confirmed that referees will use non-verbal communication to indicate to the scrum-half when the ball can be thrown into the scrum.

Up to now as part of the scrum trial, the referee has told the scrum-half that the scrum is ready for the put-in by the use of the phrase “yes nine”. But following an initial review, including consultation with national coaches and referee managers, it has been decided that referees will adopt a non-verbal communication to scrum-halves for the introduction of the ball. This is in accordance with the relevant law (20.5 Throwing the Ball Into the Scrum).

As with the original protocol, it is up to individual Unions to decide whether this change will be adopted at levels below elite Rugby.

Rugby Needs Referees

PNRRS recently sent an open letter to all rugby clubs in the Pacific Northwest alerting them to a critical shortage of trained referees this spring. This predicament will continue until the rugby community as a whole bands together and works proactively to support and develop our referee corps. The support of all referees in this outreach effort is also needed. Please read the letter and do what you can to help us recruit more referees.

Scrum Engagement

We’ve had quite a few inquiries lately about the new scrum sequence. This spring we will have some overlapping play of 7′s and 15′s. Sevens scrums are quite a bit different than fifteens scrums, so it is important that we are all on the same page.

For 15′s:
The referee should observe that scrums are straight and square before calling “CROUCH”. It is important that the front row spacing is more or less ear-to-ear once the two sides are in their crouch stance. Then call “Bind”. Make sure prop binds are high and on backs of their opposite’s jerseys. The bind that props have at this point is the bind they should keep throughout the scrum so take time to observe that binds are proper. “SET” is the command for the front rows to come together. Neither side may push at this stage but the two sides will be bearing each other’s weight. When you are satisfied that the scrum is stable, the referee should say “Yes 9″, signaling to the scrum half that the ball may be played. Make sure the feed is performed properly and that the feed is straight (review your expectations with scrum halves during pre-match), and no push until the ball is in. Hookers feet must stay down until the ball is in. IRB has a web site on managing the scrum engagement. View it at:

For Sevens:
The command sequence is the same as for 15′s: CROUCH-BIND-SET. Sevens Referees should make sure that scrums are straight and square before calling “CROUCH”. Make sure the spacing is roughly ear-to-ear, then call “BIND”. At this point, make sure all 4 props have proper binds on their opposite numbers (up high on the back), before calling “SET”, which is the invitation to engage. The put in by the scrum half must be straight down the middle. Sevens scrums by nature, are quick restarts and should proceed without delay. No command is necessary from the referee to the scrum half. We do not want to slow down the game but ensure a fair contest for possession (check for proper binds, straight put in).

Trouble Viewing Website Pages?

Several clients and referees have e-mailed that they cannot see the allocations or referee contacts on our website. Our website consultant said that this problem is usually related to the user’s browser, which likely is not coded correctly to display Google Doc links. Try updating your browser or try a different browser. You also may need to update your operating system, especially if it is an older OS. Also try a search asking about trouble viewing Goggle Doc links with the browser you use. That may bring up an article that offers a fix. Apparently, this is a universal Word Press problem. We’re looking into other hosting options but will not implement changes until this summer. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Players Wearing Tights?

In a word, the answer is no. The IRB has addressed this issue in a couple of Clarifications (in 2006) and one Law change (in 2012).

Briefly, tights are not appropriate wear for rugby because they negatively affect the ability of a tackler to grasp the legs of a ball carrier. People have tried to get around this by claiming tights are “underwear” or “support”.

In the Law 4 on Players’ Clothing, it is clearly stated that players may wear “…a jersey, shorts and underwear, and socks and boots.”

In 2006 the French asked for definitions. The relevant section in the IRB’s response is:

3. Underwear: an undergarment, that covers the body from the waist, having short or no legs but does end above the knees, and worn next to the skin or under clothing, and not attached to the jersey or shorts.

Thus tights are not an allowed piece of “underwear”.

IRB also has ruled that tights are not “support”. In the Law on Players’ Clothing, players are allowed to wear “…supports made of elasticized or compressible material which must be washable.”

In 2006 South Africa asked about a long-sleeved undergarment which extended past the jersey’s sleeves. The response from the IRB was that “the wearing of elastic ‘long sleeves’ is not a support as described in Law 4.1(a).”

This interpretation also applies to tights.

As for women wearing tights, in 2012 a change was made to Law 4.2: Special Additional Items for Women (trial variation).

4.2(b) Female players may wear cotton blend long tights with single inside leg seam under their shorts and socks.

The reason the IRB allows tights for women (and not men) is out of religious sensitivity for Muslim women who follow hijab, which requires that they are completely clothed when in public. This trial Law allows Muslim women to meet religious doctrine while affording them the opportunity to play rugby.

The clarifications and Law amendments make it very straightforward – NO TIGHTS for men. Women may wear tights provided that they conform to the standard in Law (i.e. no synthetics).

2014 Rugby Referee Goals

Feel free to download and use this form to set your referee goals for 2014. Then share them with your Referee Development Officer.

2014 Referee Goals

USA Rugby Concussion Clarification

In a letter to all referees and coaches, USA Rugby’s Dr. Harry Laws clarified that there is no “Brain Bin” for any USA rugby competitions except elite international level contests.

Referees and coaches are directed to follow IRB Regulation 10, which in summary requires:

“All players with suspected concussion where there is no appropriately qualified person is present to diagnose concussion must be removed from the field of play and
not return to play or train on the same day and should be reviewed by an appropriately qualified person and then should complete the graduated return to play
protocol described in the IRB Concussion Guidelines”
; and furthermore

Where concussion is diagnosed, a player must be removed from the field of play and not return to play or train on the same day and must be guided through a dedicated return to play protocol.

IRB policy was reinforced in a press release at the World Rugby Conference: If in doubt, sit it out.

USA Rugby posted a link to IRB’s Statement on Concussions:

and to IRB’s Player Welfare website, which devotes considerable attention to concussions as well as other player safety issues:


Multi Stage Fitness (BEEP) Test

PNRRS will be presiding over BEEP tests in Oregon and Washington in January of 2014.

Saturday, January 11, 2014; at 08:00 AM at:
The Courts – Eastmoreland, 3015 SE Berkley Place, Portland, OR 97202
(for directions go to: )
Please wear footwear suitable for running on basketball courts;
the test may be conducted in two or more groups, depending on turnout.
Contact Bernie Brown to register.

Sunday, January 19, 2014; 9:30 AM
Juanita High School (
Contact David Pelton to register.

The BEEP test is an important fitness performance measure that is required for all referees that currently hold a territorial “B” grade, and for referees that aspire to attain a B grade. It also is recommended for all rugby 7′s referees, especially those wishing to be considered for regional and national appointments.

For more information about the BEEP test, go to: