IN A move that will cheer a lot of his critics, the IRB referees’ manager Paddy O’Brien has been demoted from the top job and instead shuffled into the backwater of the seven-a-side game where he will perform the same duties.
In a further shake-up of top-class referees a new four-man panel comprising Clayton Thomas, Lyndon Bray, Tappe Henning and Donal Courtney will appoint the pool of first-class referees for each Test window. They have already made the decision for the upcoming June internationals with the nine referees being notable by the omission of both Dave Pearson and the controversial Wayne Barnes.
In fact England and Scotland have no representation on the new list of first-class referees which has two whistlers from Ireland, George Clancy and Alain Rolland; two from South Africa, Craig Joubert and Jaco Peyper; two from France, Jerome Garces and Romain Poite; and Steve Walsh (Aus), Nigel Owens (Wal) and Chris Pollock (NZ).
The feeling remains that under O’Brien’s seven-year reign as the referees’ boss that the laws have been tinkered with too often and are too complicated. He may also be paying the price for the shambles that masquerades as a set scrum, with countless resets testing the patience of the players and paying spectators alike.
The top-class pool of referees will be appointed four times a year and former Scotland flanker John Jeffrey is acting chairman of the selection committee. He made this statement on the changes:
“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.”