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Posted by: P G Tips
Date: 14/11/2019 08:45
I attended BRSC Annual “Ask The Ref” session with Tony Spreadbury last night. “Spreaders” was his usual entertaining self and gave some great insights into recent World Cup and Premiership incidents, as well as this season’s ref protocols and interpretations.

He has visited all 12 Premiership Clubs to present on the protocols, accompanied by a professional Prem ref each time. 10 clubs allowed him to address their entire squad. 2- Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers, only the coaching staff.

Key points were:

High Tackle
Refs deal with all high tackle incidents through the High Tackle Sanction Framework:
- Was there Foul Play?
- Was there contact with the head/neck?
- Were there mitigating circumstances?

If the answer to the first 2 is yes the Ref MUST give a Red card. Mitigation can only be one level, no matter how many mitigating factors – so a yellow card is the alternative.

The “Rugby collision” is no longer recognised. Either there is Foul Play or there is not. Zero tolerance on dangerous play involving the head.

If there is open space between the players before the incident and the offending player has a clear sight of his opponent, mitigation is not considered.

Aled Brew Incident

Ian Tempest followed the correct framework process, had no choice but Red Card, made the right decision.

Illegal “Fend”

If the non carrying arm is away from the body and used to fend off a tackler (i.e. forearm or elbow) that is a fend and illegal – will be punished with penalty. The exception is when the ball carrier “braces” going into contact and keeps the arm close to the body, he can then “brush” the tackler off.

Clear Out

A player going into a ruck with his arm “tucked” is clearing out illegally. If that results in contact with head the high tackle sanction framework applies.

Off Feet at Ruck

I raised the point that players are supposed to “endeavour to stay on their feet at the ruck” –this is seldom penalised. Tony said they should be, except that current ref interpretations allow leeway to go off feet if they effect a successful clear. I asked if Refs would therefore publish that interpretation so spectators knew and would feel less inclined to barrack refs. He said “good idea, but we won’t do it” – but would not explain why not.

The “Caterpillar”
Players must be properly bound- not just e.g. a hand on teammates hip. Ball must be beneath the body of a player bound in –otherwise it is out and fair game. At caterpillar, if ball is out players should go for the ball not the 9.


- The key is scrum must be stable and safe. A straight pushing contest is demanded. Refs particularly look for Tighthead levering the loosehead down and Loosehead pulling down and of course wheeling.
- Ball in straight. That “is not going to happen”. He did say “It’s a lot better than it was.” This was met by some ironic comments!
- Bath v Northampton -9 minutes of scrums. The lengthy scrum period from 60-69 mins was because the nature of offences varied. Asked why a penalty try was not given he commented that Bath were not going forward at time of the scrum offences so a PT could not be given. I reminded him that he gave the same answer 6 years ago (Bath v Sale) when it was not possible for Bath to go forward because of scrum collapse by Sale. His comment this time was that on the 2 occasions a PT might have been given Zach chose to pick up the ball (one a fresh penalty, two the try). Had it stayed in an advancing scrum PT would have resulted.
- Bath scrum. Known among refs last season as “difficult to ref”. This season as “much improved, very good.”


Refs are to be hot this year on offside- particularly “back foot” and in front of kicker.

I hope these explanations prove useful. It was a busy evening, with many questions. I would have liked to ask a few more but there simply was not time. I took no notes so the above is from memory – if anybody else was there and has anything to add, please do.


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