Archive for Brett Johnson

PNRRS Fall 2017 Pre-Season Newsletter

Hello Referees,

CIPP Registration is open
Last year’s memberships expire in two weeks and the fall season is about to begin.  Make sure you get over to the membership site and renew your status for the new season.  This year they renewal rate for Referees has gone up slightly, accounting for the cost of background checks.

New Law Trials for Fall 2017
World Rugby has issued several trial laws that are in force for all competitions in the United States as of 8/14.  There are 15 changes, the official documentation is here.  A lot of small simplifications to, especially, eliminate tip-toeing around various boundary lines in Rugby.  The big changes here will be the 1-player rucks and the prohibition against kicking the ball through a ruck.  Many of the rest are relatively rare events, but it will be hard to not have a ruck under these variations.

  • Uncontested scrums due to Red or Yellow card or injury must be played with 8 players per side.
  • Play the restart after a penalty awarded at full time is kicked into touch without touching another player.
  • In a multiple penalty situation the non-offending captain may choose which mark to play.
  • A Penalty Try is worth 7 points – there is no longer a conversion attempt.
  • The tackler must play from their side of the tackle gate after regaining their feet.
  • A ruck may be formed by a single player over the ball on the ground.
  • A player must not kick a ball out of a ruck: penalty.
  • A player must have both feet on or behind the 22 and the ball must reach the plane before being caught to make a mark.
  • If the ball crosses the plane of a line before being touched the touching player has not carried it across that line; though if the player bats it back across that line while in the air, play on.
  • Scrum may be fed with no signal from the referee.
  • Scrum half may set their shoulder on the line of the middle of the scrum, feed must still be straight.
  • After the ball hits the ground in the scrum any player may attempt to hook it, one player from the feeding team must attempt to hook it.
  • The #8 may pick the ball up from the feet of the second row.
  • If the ball has not crossed the plane of the goal line before being picked up by a player behind the goal line, the player has taken possession of the ball in the field of play.
  • If a player with one or both feet behind the dead ball line picks up or catches a ball that hasn’t reached the dead ball line (or touch in goal line) that player is deemed to have made the ball dead.


Referee Abuse and PNRRS Withdrawal from Rainier Rugby Club events
Over the summer the Referee Society withdrew our participation from matches with the Rainier Club, as per our policy on repeated referee abuse.  This was the first time we had to invoke the policy and we did not do this lightly.  Rainier racked up five instance of referee abuse in a little over one year.  On the whole we’ve seen an uptick in referee abuse at the youth and college levels, with female referees eight times more likely than their male counterparts to receive abuse.

The recent record of referee abuse by the Rainier Club includes:
• April 2016: Rainier Coach threatened a referee, verbally and physically, and was given a significant ban.
• April 2016: Verbal abuse as well as a coach entering the field to scream at the referee, handled in house with no publicly applied sanctions.
• March 18th 2017: Verbal abuse of a referee, referee quit officiating rugby matches
• April 29th, 2017:  Verbal abuse of a referee, with three lengthy bans pending.
• July 1st, 2017:  Incident at Rugby WA 7s, resulting in referee abuse, a fight during the match, and abandonment of a tournament final match.

A copy of our abuse policy is available here:  PNRRS Referee Abuse Policy.
Our withdrawal was for the remainder of the summer season, Rainier Club events may be allocated again from here out (assuming they do not relapse into abuse).

While this was a big step, to withdraw officials from a club for the balance of the season, it is for nothing if we cannot together change the culture in youth rugby.  For that we need to know when abuse happens.  It is unacceptable for players, coaches, or fans to be screaming at referees during a match and we need every referee to report it when it happens.  We also have a problem with respect towards women and need these instances reported as well as new strategies to help our partner leagues clean their culture up.

If you have passion around referee abuse or ideas on how we can right the ship please get in touch.

National Fitness Requirements
Referees with aspirations for national appointments have until the end of the month to report their fitness level for the new season.  The standard by grade is listed below, with the YoYo preferred going foward.

Report scores HERE.

USARR Yo-Yo protocol LINK

Fall 2017 Passing Fitness Scores
Grade YoYo Beep
Elite 18.5 12.6
NP 18 12
B 17 11
C1 17 11
C2 16 10

If you want to get a match, or get paid for doing a match, you must update your Availability in WhosTheRef.
We are in the process of collecting and inputting the various league schedules for the fall season.  Now is the time to update your availability in WhosTheRef.  Taking this time to also make sure your contact information is correct will help both the allocators and the treasurer.  We require that match reports be filed within 48 hours, a disciplinary committee cannot act before the next match if the reports are not filed and there is no time to work through their DC process.  Additionally, we require separate Red and Yellow card reports for each such card.  The DCs decide what to do with the offenses, not the officials.  We need Name, CIPP, Offense, Law, and some context – what was happening in the game when the card was issued.

The Society has issued referee reimbursements three times in the last six months, if you haven’t been reimbursed please let us know. Going forward we will be using the match reports in WhosTheRef as the authority for who gets paid for doing society matches.  Match reports are associated with each assignment in the system there should be no more confusion from the report about which side from a given club, or which club participated, or date the match occurred on for a given report.  But this means we all need to do a new thing for our match reports, here’s how:

1)Accept your appointments.  You can’t file a report on a match you haven’t accepted.  If you end up doing a match you were not assigned to (like a 7/8 match after the varsity event) the allocators can assign you to a match after the fact if you let them know.
2)After the match date buttons show up in WhosTheRef next to your appointment.
3)Click the Match Report Button
4)Fill out the Match Report details
5)Click the ‘Final’ checkbox
6)Submit the report by clicking the Green Check-marked Disk Icon
7)If any Red or Yellow Cards were issued click the plus and then the appropriate card(s).
8)Fill out the details
9)Click the ‘Final’ checkbox
10)Submit the report(s)

The match report buttons do not show up until after the match has been played for those officials who accepted their match appointments.  Referees can only accept their appointments up to the scheduled match date.

Please let us know if you want to hear more, less, or help out.

Thank you for all you do for the game.

Global Law Trials 2017-2018

As they often do between World Cups, World Rugby has introduced several changes to law to evaluate whether they make the game better. “Better” is always a bit subjective, however WR were aiming to simplify certain aspects of the game and to make it flow more and be more entertaining to the general public. The law trials for this period are listed at the link below, and have been tested in limited closed trials in various competitions around the world during the 2016-2017 season. WR has determined that the following changes have the desired effects, and have introduced them for all rugby. USA Rugby introduced them as being the official laws of Rugby in the USA as of August 14th 2017.

Official law change page – World Rugby Global Law Trials. Links to a list of the changed laws with a short video or video to illustrate the desired new behavior and interpretation.

USA Rugby have provided two information broadcasts:
A Webinar on the New Laws – USA Rugby Laws Webinar.
A Facebook Live Q&A – Weaver & Summers on the New Laws.

In the Pacific NW, Michelle O’Brien, Lynn Howard, and Peter Buckley organized a FB live demo session with Valley Kangaroos RFC MOB, Lynn, & Peter @ Valley.


Preparations for 2017-2018 season as Match Officials

Gang – If you’re going to referee this year we need you to do two things to get ready for the season:

1) Renew your CIPP with USA Rugby

2) Be registered on WhosTheRef and have filled in your availability (so the allocators can figure out when you want to referee).
For #1, the 2017-2018 registration year is open now. Some people are having issues with registration, being asked to take either a ‘safesport’ or ‘concussion management’ certification.

Both of these are new for 2017 for referees, ‘though some of us who are coaches and educators have taken them in years past. The courses are located at:
Safesport- Safesport.
Concussion Management for the General Public- Concussion Mangement.

For #2. Go to WhosTheref, log in using your credentials. On the left side of the home page there is a menu item called “availability”. Fill in your availability as far in advance as you can. You can come back and edit it at any stage, so if your availability changes through the season, or other commitments come up that mean you can’t make a particular Saturday morning; then just go and update the fields.

So far we have 18 refs CIPP registered with PNRRS for the upcoming season. The season starts this weekend! We are not able to assign match officials who are not currently registered as referees.
No big deal if you want to CIPP as a referee to your home club instead of PNRRS, but if you do go this route, please send John Clavin an email with the details, just so we know you’re good for the season.

2017 High Tackle Directive

Hi All,

As we’re getting ready for the 2017 Spring season, I wanted to give some more detail on some of the big changes that are coming this season, mainly around the new high tackles directive and other law changes this year.

New High Tackle Directive:
We are seeing some confusion, and lack of clarity on the referee and coaching sides as to what actions we expect referees to take regarding high tackles. I.e. What exactly has changed since last year?
From what I can tell, there is a fairly broad agreement from the rugby community that bringing the height of the tackle down is a positive development, but there is some concern as to exactly what the different versions of a high tackle are, and fears about inconsistency amongst referees.
Let’s hit the second part first. It is almost inevitable that there will be inconsistency for the first few games of the year, until we all gain some experience with the new directive – be prepared to acknowledge that with coaches and players. But, also be prepared to be able to explain your actions and decisions.

Important to note that there has been no change to the laws regarding dangerous tackles, what has changed is that the referees are being instructed to increase the sanction for a particular subset of dangerous tackles – tackles involving contact with the head and neck areas.
In gross outline, what would most often have been a penalty only last season, is now a Penalty + Yellow Card, and what would have been a PK+YC last year is now to be judged as a PK + Red Card. The goal is not to have the refs give more cards, but rather to make the players change their behaviors and to tackle lower and more safely.

Here’s the directive we have received from USA Rugby as to how it is to be interpreted in games under their control:

This week rugby around the globe will see the implementation of a change in application for illegal (high) tackles and increased sanctions. This will apply at all levels of the game from 3 January 2017 introducing minimum on-field sanctions for reckless and accidental contact with the head, effectively lowering the acceptable height of the tackle.

Richard Every, High Performance Referee Manager for USA Rugby added, “Safety is paramount, and referees and players have a combined responsibility to ensure that the game is played with control and discipline. We welcome the direction and are providing additional GUIDANCE (below) to establish a consistent approach across all levels. There will undoubtedly be a period of adjustment for players and match officials, and we will support the transition through the referee department with open communication and continued education.”

This has not created new “illegal actions” but rather adjusts the standard on how dangerous actions are sanctioned. It does not allow the ball carrier to manufacture penalties. “Other phases” mentioned are aimed primarily at actions such as the “gator roll”, where there is a real risk of grasping the head/neck area. Fending off is still legal at all levels except high school.

Reckless Tackle
A player is deemed to have made reckless contact during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game if in making contact, the player knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head of an opponent, but did so anyway. This sanction applies even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. This type of contact also applies to grabbing and rolling or twisting around the head/neck area even if the contact starts below the line of the shoulders. Minimum sanction: Penalty & Yellow card / Maximum sanction: Penalty & Red card
GUIDANCE: It is a deliberate action from tackler. The onus is on the tackler to ensure the tackle is safe with regards to above the shoulder and contact in the head and neck area. It will be up to the referee to differentiate the severity of the tackle and what sanction is appropriate – a good process would be to combine the level of recklessness with the outcome and affect on the tackled player.

Accidental Tackle
When making contact with another player during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game, if a player makes accidental contact with an opponent’s head, either directly or where the contact starts below the line of the shoulders, the player may still be sanctioned. This includes situations where the ball-carrier slips into the tackle. Minimum sanction: Penalty
GUIDANCE: It is an accidental action from tackler. Contact above the shoulder in the head and neck area was not due to a deliberate or reckless action from the tackler.

For further guidelines please review the World Rugby release which includes several video examples:

Useful Video:
Sky Sports in the UK have released this video will former England center Will Greenwood and WR International referee John Lacey explaining some of the differences between Reckless and Accidental, and when you would determine whether a Reckless tackle should have a Yellow Card or a Red Card associated with it.…/…/greenwood-backs-new-rugby-rules

For those of you who like checklists, I’ve also seen it broken down this way (in terms of how a referee should look at the elements of an individual tackle):

Refs are judging according to 4 criteria:
1. Was there Foul play?
2. Did it Start high / direct contact to the head / rise up as part of the tackle?
3. Was it Out of control / should the tackler have known the hit would be high
4. Was it forceful?

Some mitigation taken into account if the ball carrier ducks into contact – so refs are bing asked to adjudicate who initiated contact, with onus on tackler to be the more responsible one involved.

If the ref sees the criteria above then the decision cycle is:
1+2 = Penalty Kick for foul play (Dangerous Tackle). Note: cumulative for team / repeat Foul play cards.
1+2+3 = PK + Yellow card
1+2+3+4 = PK + Red card

In adult rugby the “High Tackle line” is the line of the shoulders, in Youth and High School Rugby it is the line of the armpits

Global Law Changes:
USA Rugby has decided not to implement the 2017 Global law changes until August 1st 2017. So for the vast majority of us, no change.
For those who will referee or AR in BC, or in BCRU games, Rugby Canada IS implementing the Global Law changes as of January 1st 2017. There are 5 changes to law, some of which will make a significant difference to how incidents are adjudicated, so if you are assigned a Canadian game, please make sure you know what these changes are. Check in with Buckley, Clavin, Kautz, or Wickman if you need someone to talk them over with.


PNRRS Policy on Referee Abuse

At the January 2016 PNRRS Executive meeting, the board members clarified their position of members being asked to referee clubs where there is a history of match official abuse. It was taken into account that the referee society is not and should not operate a disciplinary committee, as that is a function for the players unions, however given the persistence of the issue in the region, action was required to protect the interests of our members.

The document below outlines the updated policy.

PNRRS Policy Update 1 2016 – Referee Abuse


Pacific Northwest Rugby Referee Society

Updated policy on referee abuse, effective 1/1/2016 until superseded.

Despite progress being made by unions throughout the Pacific Northwest, abuse of match officials remains a significant issue both in our game and in our region.

In the Pacific NW region across all leagues, for the 2015 season, we averaged roughly one report per week of referee abuse; this ranged from over enthusiastic sidelines, through direct abuse from players and coaches, to physical confrontation between player and referee.

Nationally, this is a significant enough issue that in 2015, USA Rugby issued clear and specific guidelines to be followed by all referees in the USA on dealing with certain incidents of referee abuse.

Referee abuse remains one of the top reasons why rugby referees decide to stop refereeing, and is a major barrier to recruiting new match officials.

Updated policy:

It is clear that this is a situation that PNRRS must deal with. The numbers of incidents are too high, and in a scenario where we already have difficulty retaining competent match officials, having them retire due to actions of others is unacceptable.

However, it is also the strong opinion of PNRRS that operating a Disciplinary Committee is not the role of the Referee Society, and that any discipline of players, coaches, other officials, or teams is the purview of the leagues and unions to which the relevant clubs belong.

With that in mind, PNRRS has adopted the following policy update for incidents of referee abuse.

  1. 1)  All incidents of referee abuse, be it verbal, physical, or any other form of abuse, will be cited by the referee society to the relevant disciplinary committee using the formal citing process in place for the appropriate DC, usually those specified by World Rugby, and endorsed by USA Rugby.
  2. 2)  If a particular club has multiple incidents for referee abuse in a single season that are reported to the referee society and are determined to be real, the Referee Society shall consider those to be repeat infringements by the club.
    1. In determining what action to take, the principles of law 10.3 shall be applied.
    2. Where repeated infringements have been deemed to occur, the Referee Society shall, attheir sole discretion, decline to require their members to referee matches involving that club (either home or away) for the remainder of the season. The Referee Society is not disciplining the club, simply declining to put their members into a hostile or dangerous environment.

c. Such sanction will terminate at the end of the relevant season, or upon receipt from the club of evidence of practices put in place to reasonably ensure that the behavior will not recur.

d. For the purposes of administration, a ‘club’ is considered to be an entity registered as a club with USA Rugby’s CIPP system.

3) Realizing that adequate reporting of incidents of abuse is dependent information provided by the appropriate match official so that the Disciplinary Committees can do their work with full information, match officials shall be required to report incidents of abuse in the Match Report Form

a. Officials that supply inaccurate, misleading, or omitted information shall be subject to internal discipline by the Referee Society, including suspension from refereeing matches.

4) As a matter of practicality, any incidents that took place before January 1 2016 are not subject to this policy update.

Ratified by PNRRS Executive January 21, 2016

Article on Concussions and the issues with the Head Injury Assessment

Below is an article written about the issues with Concussion protocols at the elite level.

Irish Times on Traumatic Brain Injuries

As a reminder, there is no “Brain Bin” in the USA. Please review the USA Rugby Concussion Protocol and when in doubt, sit them out.

USA Rugby Concussion Protocol

Changes to law and guidelines in immediate effect for rugby in the USA – January 29th 2016

In a relatively unusual step, USA Rugby have issued a series of law and guideline changes mid-season, that are to be implemented immediately in all rugby played under the direction of USA Rugby.

Law Clarifications:

1 – Time at end of half or game.

Change: If there has been a score at the end of a half, and there is still time to take the consequent kick off; minor errors (such as kick not 10m) do not count as a dead ball situation, and time has not expired. There is still time to take the resulting scrum etc., as technically this is the same play as the kick off, and not a new play.

2 – Knock ons


a) if a tackling player makes contact with the ball, and it goes forward from the ball carrier’s hands, it IS a knock on.

b) if the tackler rips or deliberately knocks the ball so that it goes forward from the ball carrier, it IS NOT a knock on.

i.e. the referee is asked to adjudicate the intentionality of the ball contact by the tackling player.

3 – Conversions


1) Clarification that a team may opt not to take a conversion kick by the try scorer informing the referee.

2) If a team chooses not to take a conversion, there WILL be a kick off, regardless if the time had nominally expired.

4 – Time

Change: For questions on whether there is time available to take a kick off following a conversion. The time is considered as the time when the ball was struck. I.e. if a kick is taken at 79.59, there IS time for a kick off.

5 – clothing

Change: A Rugby Jersey is required to have sleeves.

6 – Forward pass into touch

Change: Currently 19.4 indicates that a knock on into touch results in an option to the non-offending team of a scrum or lineout. This is clarified to include ‘knock on or forward pass’


Minor law changes:

1 – law 3.5 number of players required to be front row capable plus impact on substitute numbers has been re-written for clarity. 

2 – A player who is injured and unable to continue in the game as a result of foul play may be replaced by a previously substituted player. Make sure you know the difference between replaced and substituted!

3 – Medically trained personnel (non-playing) may enter the field during play to tend an injured player. ALL others may only enter with specific referee permission.

4 – if it is safe, it is OK to play advantage after a collapsed scrum. It is not OK to play advantage if a scrum player is lifted into the air in a scrum.

5 – sevens. Conversion kick now has 30 seconds to be taken

6 – Deletes a seldom used provision of repeat infringement law requiring a red card for further team repeats after a yellow card already given. 

7 – faking, to get an opponent penalized is specifically out lawed. No diving in rugby. Penalty offence.

8 – FWD Pass; Now determined by whether the player’s arms moved towards the opposing dead ball line. Not hands, not ball, but arms.

9 – @ Lineout. No player may block the throw in or prevent the ball travelling 5 meters.

10 – form the scrum quickly. Teams must be ready to form a scrum within 30 seconds of a referee making the mark

11 – If a scrum wheels through 90 degrees, a new scrum is formed with the put in to the same team that threw it in originally. (Used to be turn over ball on a wheel through 90)

12 – Defending scrum half at a scrum may not move into space between flanker and no. 8.

13 – When forming a scrum, Fronts rows must interlock ear against ear.

14 – Use it or lose it introduced at scrums. Ball may be at feet of hindmost player for 3-5 seconds before it must be played.

15 – All penalty kicks awarded within 5m of a goal line are taken at the 5m line. Used to be just the attacking team moved to the 5.

World Rugby Clarification: Kicking the Ball Out of a Players Hands

World Rugby has issued another clarification.  This addresses kicking the ball out of the hands of another player.  That has always been specifically prohibited when a player is attempting to touch the ball down for a try, but it was not addressed for more general situations.  This clarification makes it clear – that action is illegal and dangerous and should be penalized.

The full clarification can be read at

World Rugby: Dangerous Tackle Memorandum

World rugby released a memorandum on dangerous tackles a couple of days back; clarifying two aspects and reemphasizing the need to take tackles around the neck and head out of the game.

Even though they may not technically be a tackle, the following situations are to be considered as dangerous play, and acted on accordingly:

1) the “alligator roll” clear out at the breakdown, where a player removes an opponent by binding on to them and rolling off the breakdown. If the contact is above the line of the shoulders (armpits in youth rugby) it is dangerous play.

2) the “choke tackle”, where a potential tackler grasps the ball carrier high, in an effort to prevent him/her going to ground. If the contact is above the shoulders (armpits in youth rugby) then it is dangerous play.

World Rugby Front Row Clarification

The question is what happens if a team has used all its players that are capable at a certain front row position and the player on the field needs to go off temporarily for either blood or a head injury assessment.
If the front row player is only going off temporarily, the player may be replaced by some other substitute and uncontested scrums will be ordered.
If the player turns out to be gone permanently (after the treatment or assessment), the temporary sub will need to leave the game [per 3.5 (k)] and scrums will continue uncontested.