As the Six Nations draws to a close, we can review and discuss the six weeks of action. You can unpick the highs, the lows, those who shone, and those who were absent.
Yet as we reflect on take on pitch and off pitch action it’s important to recognise that instead of six, there are actually seven teams that make up the competition!
You don’t have to go back that far to find the referees and officials each operating on their own in isolation. But today the interaction and collaboration between match officials is an entirely different matter.
Having had the pleasure to speak to many of the Six Nations referees during the tournament, one thing that has been striking throughout the experience is the coming together of officials into one unified team – the seventh team of the Six Nations.
It goes without saying that the Six Nations, or any match for that matter, cannot happen without a huge team of support from coaches and staff; to referees, assistants and TMOs. Yet, recent years have seen a shift in the way match officials work together, train together, eat together, plan and manage a game together to provide a coordinated and unified approach across a tournament.
Through the special relationship that ACME Whistles have with referees around the world, RUCK were able to talk to the leading tournament match officials who gave personal insights into what it’s like for them at Six Nations. It goes without saying that each brought a level of professionalism you’d expect from topflight rugby with incredible knowledgeable, passion and each acutely aware of the importance of their role in overseeing a fair contest of flowing rugby. Although you may expect a level of competitiveness between officials to oversee the big games, instead we found each striving to deliver as part of a team, to do their best on the pitch yes, but to deliver the best overall tournament possible. It’s all about making the right decision.
During one of our chats with Luke Pearce, one of the team of Six Nations referees, he said; “Whether you are in the centre of the pitch, assistant ref or TMO everyone is working together to oversee the best game we can. The only way we can do that is as a team.
“We have such a strong team of international referees and knowing you have that support behind you when making on field decisions or getting wider input from the team, is a huge asset. Many of the international referees I work with our great friends as well.
“Although there will always be one referee on pitch, you should never underestimate the support provided by the rest of the team.
“Every decision we make is is to deliver a fair and exciting game for the players, fans and spectators.”
Modern rugby, and those overseeing tier one international matches, are very much now operating as one unit, as much a team as any 15 players walking out onto the pitch.
Irish referee Andrew Brace added: “It’s just so important to come together as a team ahead of each international match we oversee. Each referee is slightly different on how they bring their team of officials together, however that team bonding will happen way ahead of the match itself as we plan out our approach, and continue as we spend time eating together, relaxing and exercising in the days leading up to the match.
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“That time together really solidifies the bond between us. I can only see that team bond adding to better performances from the officials, and ultimately result in better decision making.”
So next time you sit back and switch the TV on to watch the Six Nations, remember the seventh team in the tournament.
In recognition of the contribution referees have made to this tournament and community rugby across the country we have created an award to celebrate some of our top performing referees across the country click here to find out more
“The whistle” has been created in collaboration with ACME whistles, the world’s leading whistle manufacturer.