Nigel Owens On What Referees Are Set To Clamp Down On For The Six Nations

Clamping down.

The 2018 Six Nations gets underway this weekend with Wales and Scotland kicking things off on Saturday, before France host Ireland in Paris. Sunday then sees Italy host England, with a repeat of last year’s ruck tactics impossible due to new laws.

Nigel Owens will be in charge of the Ireland and France game, and ahead of the competition, sat down with The Daily Mail to discuss some of the areas that he and his fellow referees will be clamping down on this year.

First up is backchat. We’ve seen it creep into the game more and more in recent weeks, and referees are going to start getting stricter.

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

“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.”

Collisions in the air have also become a huge talking point in recent months. Owens says it’s no longer all about where the victim lands, which was the case this time last year.

With collisions in the air it is not all about where the victim lands… If the action is already illegal, reckless and dangerous the defender could fall safely, but it may still be a red card. Most are unavoidable collisions, so should not warrant a card. 

Crooked feeds at the scrum are also set to become a focal point, especially with the new laws in place.

“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.”

At the breakdown, reckless clear-outs will be policed accordingly.

“If someone charges into a ruck, leading with the shoulder and strikes the head it is pretty much always a red card…”

“I liken it to driving in a 30mph zone. If you are driving at 35mph and hit someone, your action is illegal — it does not matter how late the person came out into the road. If you drove at 30mph and did everything to avoid the collision, you haven’t done anything wrong.”

Finally, scrum-halves rolling the ball back in at the ruck is something that a lot of people have pointed out in recent weeks. Owens says referees have noted the infringement, and will be clamping down this year.

“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.”

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