International Rugby
O'Brien steps down from IRB refs role
ESPNscrum Staff
March 24, 2012
IRB referees manager Paddy O'Brien, IRB Junior World Championship 2011 Launch, Treviso, Italy, June 8, 2011
IRB referees manager Paddy O'Brien is to step down from his role with immediate effect © Getty Images

International Rugby Board elite referees manager Paddy O'Brien is to step down from his post with immediate to take up a similar role within the Sevens game.

The announcement came as part of a restructuring of the referee selection process that the sport's governing body hopes will ensure 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.

O'Brien, who has managed the sport's leading referees for the last seven years, has been tasked with readying officials for rugby's return to the Olympics in 2016 and will act as a high performance manager on the HSBC World Sevens Series.

"Paddy's exceptional dedication and application to driving forward elite match official standards has significantly benefitted the Game over the past seven years," commented IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset, who also confirmed that the process for replacing O'Brien will be announced in due course. "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."

A "vastly experienced committee" will now take charge of a streamlined selection process. The committee, which includes former elite referees Lyndon Bray, Tappe Henning, Donal Courtney and Clayton Thomas 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 Six 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.

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).

As a result, there is no matches for English referees Wayne Barnes or Dave Pearson, who both took charge of games in the Six Nations, while New Zealander Bryce Lawrence, heavily criticised for his performances at last year's Rugby World Cup, is another to have been cut from the elite panel.

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."

The committee have also 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

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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