New Zealand Rugby
Henry calls for refereeing overhaul
April 29, 2009
Head coach Graham Henry of the All Blacks during a New Zealand training session at Brisbane Grammer School on September 9, 2008
All Blacks boss Graham Henry has called for an overhaul in refereeing standards © Getty Images

All Blacks boss Graham Henry has called for an overhaul to the international refereeing structure, criticising the standards set during this year's Super 14 and emphasising the importance of continuity across all competitions and at international level.

Henry, describing the standard of refereeing as "the major area" of concern in the world game has called for unity from different parties after the disharmony created by the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs).

"I think it is the major area that we need to work on," said Henry. "Everybody in the game needs to get behind that."

Henry is of the belief that referees the world over should be answerable to one administration and one coach, ensuring that standards would be met on a consistent basis and that all referees could be held to account over their decisions. He also believes that referees and assistant referees should be drawn from separate pools in order to safeguard against competition between the officials, invoking an idea of refereeing "teams" as a potential solution.

"They would be answerable to only one boss and I think that would help," he said. "I think that would produce consistency of performance and competition among referees to get better. Maybe the referee and the two assistants become a team and they work together for the international rugby games that they officiate in. I think that would produce the ability to work together, to get to understand each other, build a relationship."

With this season's Super 14 having provided a mixed bag in terms of quality, Henry believes that the referee's performances are having an undue bearing over the on-field standards of play. He described certain Super 14 games as having "become a wee bit of a lottery, which is disappointing".

With the breakdown and scrum a continuing source of frustration, Henry has avoided criticising the ELVs for the dip in standards. Instead he has put forward his belief that the criticism of the new laws had overtaken the desire to improve standards of refereeing at elite level. Henry said he had spoken to the International Rugby Board's referees boss, New Zealander Paddy O'Brien, about his ideas and had received a positive reception, but that he had no idea when such a plan might come into action, saying at the moment it was "just my view".

"I think we hide behind the laws quite a bit, rather than trying to work hard and improving the officiating," he said.

Henry also spoke on the future of injured fly-half Dan Carter, saying that he would not be rushed back in to action at international level. Henry also hinted that Luke McAlister, set to return to New Zealand after a stint at Sale, would likely be employed at No.10 in the immediate future for the All Blacks rather than in midfield.

"We just can't put a time frame on it," he said. "All I can say to you is that he's making very good progress. There's no point in trying to push him, the last thing we want to do is for him to have a repeat because, if that happens, it's the end of it, I would say. So we all need to be patient and he will play when he's ready.

"I think immediately our lack of depth of guys who could play international rugby right now is at 10. Isaia Toeava has played well at 12 for the Blues and obviously Ma'a [Nonu] has played some exceptional rugby for the Hurricanes, so there's a wee bit of depth at 12, but not so much at 10."


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