• Selection committee to convene four times per year
• Referee panel for June internationals announced
• Process building towards Rugby World Cup 2015
• Process allows for movement in and out of the Panel based on form
• Paddy O’Brien to step down as IRB Referee Manager and transition to new Rugby Sevens role
As part of its ongoing review process and commitment to ensuring consistency and that the best referees are selected on form to officiate in the biggest matches in the run up to Rugby World Cup 2015, the IRB has announced a restructured and more streamlined selection process overseen by a vastly experienced committee.
The committee, which includes former elite referees Lyndon Bray, Tappe Henning (both SANZAR), Donal Courtney and Clayton Thomas (both 6 Nations), will now meet four times per year and make selections for the next international window with all performances reviewed as part of the next round of international selections.
Following a thorough review of performances during the recently concluded RBS 6 Nations, the selection committee's commitment to promoting consistency has been reflected in the latest selections with nine elite referees appointed to the top matches in what is a busy June international window that also sees the beginning of the schedule involving tours to Tier 2 Unions.
They are: George Clancy (Ireland), Jérôme Garcès (France), Craig Joubert (South Africa), Nigel Owens (Wales), Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Romain Poite (France), Alain Rolland (Ireland) and Steve Walsh (Australia).
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Acting chairman of the selection committee and IRB Council member for Scotland John Jeffrey said: “The IRB is committed to ensuring that the platform is in place to promote the very best refereeing standards at the elite level of the Game. Our priority is the continued promotion of consistency and performance and our strategic goal is to deliver the best available panel for Rugby World Cup 2015 while at the same time applying the best-for-best principle in the selection of referees for each international window.”
“There will be consistent movement in and out of the panel based on form to reward the top performers and those making the step up as we build towards RWC 2015 in England. In short, this means that referees are selected on merit, in form and closer to the matches being played. All Member Unions are committed to this process, which is essential for its success.”
Underscoring its commitment to ensuring selection on form, there will now be four selection meetings per year to tie in with the four international windows. At each meeting, the referee panel for the next international window will be reviewed and named.
The committee agreed that the key areas of the Game identified for particular focus by referees needed constant reviewing. Those five key areas are:
• All aspects of the tackle with particular emphasis to be placed on the tackler releasing the tackled player and rolling away and arriving players staying on their feet
• Offside at the breakdown
• Offside from kicks
• All aspects of the scrum, particularly the engagement process and front-row binding
• All aspects of the maul, particularly what constitutes legal maul defence
As part of the restructure, IRB Referee Manager Paddy O’Brien has decided to step down after seven years of excellent service. Having played an instrumental role in the advancement of elite match official preparation and performance, including the management of the referee team at two Rugby World Cups, he has decided that he requires a fresh challenge.
O’Brien will now focus his extensive experience into a similar role for Rugby Sevens, underlining the IRB’s commitment to Sevens ahead of Rugby making its return to the Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He remains central to the match official process and is supportive of the restructure.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Paddy’s exceptional dedication and application to driving forward elite match official standards has significantly benefitted the Game over the past seven years. He will be a tough act to follow as a Referee Manager and I am delighted that he will be channelling all his experience into preparing the best up-and-coming match officials on the HSBC Sevens World Series to ensure that the very best referees are in peak form for 2016.”