The areas where referees have been instructed to clamp down in this year's Six Nations - Ruck

The areas where referees have been instructed to clamp down in this year’s Six Nations

Six Nations referees have been given a brief to clamp down on a number of issues, including backchat during this season’s tournament.

There will also be close scrutiny of scrum-halves at the breakdown and back-chat to officials during the European extravaganza kicking off this weekend.

The most capped referee in history Nigel Owens, who is taking charge of the France-Ireland opener in Paris on the opening weekend has given an insight into the areas officials will be targeting.

He told the MailOnline: “We will be stronger on crooked feeds at the scrum… Everybody wants the ball put in straight at a scrum – it does not need to be 50-50 down the middle, but it needs to allow both hookers to strike for the ball.

“If the ball goes straight into the second-row’s feet we will be giving a free-kick.

“Something new we will clamp down on is scrum-halves rolling the ball back in a ruck with their hands. This has been happening when the ball has been won.

“Now they must use their feet unless the ball is trapped under a pile of bodies.

“If they use their hands they could concede a penalty or referees will say the ball is out and the ruck is over, so the opposition can come round


“Protecting rugby’s values is important, so we will deal with backchat as we are aware of it creeping into the game,” he added.

“We can march teams back 10 metres, reverse the penalty decision, or even show cards – although I would probably only sin-bin someone who has retaliated to foul play and then asks for a yellow for the other player.

“As with anything, it depends on what is said and the manner in which they say it.

“If a player shouts right into your face, they may receive a card.”