O’Shea wants scrum clarity from officials

Harlequins director of rugby believes some referees are guessing at scrum time

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea


Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea has called for referees to “stop guessing” at scrum time and advocated an international summit to bring clarity to the set-piece and breakdown.

O’Shea’s comments come in the wake of England forwards coach Graham Rowntree questioning a number of the decisions made by referee Steve Walsh in Saturday’s Six Nations title decider.

Rowntree said he was “annoyed” by Walsh’s handling of the scrum at the Millennium Stadium and that he would be seeking further explanation from the International Rugby Board.

Scotland’s interim coach Scott Johnson had similar complaints following his side’s defeat to Wales at Murrayfield and much of the Six Nations was disfigured by scrum collapses and re-sets.

O’Shea believes it is time the issue was addressed and he would welcome a global summit of players, coaches and referees in a bid to increase consistency and understanding.

“Being a referee is the hardest job in the world but what infuriates people is when a call is made and it is quite obviously a guess and games change on those decisions,” O’Shea said.

“You can’t get every decision right but it is having that consistency. When you make a decision you can’t just think something has happened.

“Because a scrum disintegrates one way, is that because it is someone pulling the wool over your eyes and getting away with it? A summit on what’s going on (could solve it).

“It can be difficult after you lose a game to say what you want to say.

“The big thing is you want massive consistency and both sides to be treated equally and in a manner that will give them an equal opportunity within the game.

“Will there still be decisions that are wrong? Of course there will. We all make mistakes. That is fine.

“I can understand where people come from when they see consistent officiating of one side over another. I am not saying that in relation to last week’s game but it does happen.”

While O’Shea’s concern over the scrum is for the good of the game, it is the breakdown which bothers him most because Harlequins’ style is based on quick, clean ball.

“We are from a club where our biggest area is the breakdown. The scrum is massive and I know it is the current blight. It has become an issue,” O’Shea said.

“But we want to play quickly and we want to make sure the tackler releases and rolls away to free up the breakdown and give more latitude to the attacking team.

“When a turnover that should be a penalty to one team ends up being a try for another, those are massive things.

“If I was on the working party that is what I would be banging on about.”

Rowntree’s request for clarification from the IRB over Walsh’s performance formed part of the standard feedback form that all coaches fill in.

Walsh has a chequered history with England and it is understood that could come into consideration when the officials are selected for the summer tour of Argentina.

An IRB spokesman would not comment specifically on Rowntree’s comments on Walsh’s performance, other than to confirm that referee’s manager Joel Jutge is currently reviewing the Six Nations matches.

“We do not comment on specific individual performances of match officials but it is true to say that a clear feedback process operates between the IRB referees manager, match officials and the teams for all Test matches,” an IRB spokesman said.

“As with any match, the performance is subject to review and is taken into consideration for future Test match appointments.

“The IRB match official selection committee meets four times a year and makes selections for the next international window with all performances reviewed in advance of selection.

“This system allows for movement in and out of the panel based on form and rewards the top performers and young referees who have graduated through the performance pathway ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.”