Jonathan Kaplan says referees should focus more on ball-carriers’ deliberate attempts to milk penalties in a tackle situation.
In his column for The Telegraph, the former Test referee lists three things he’d like to see improve from an officiating perspective during the upcoming Six Nations tournament.
He says a greater emphasis should be placed on the policing of high tackles for both the attackers and defenders.
‘If there was one thing that disappointed both the players and the public during the autumn internationals it was the lack of accuracy around high tackles.
‘While the referees are understandably focusing on the tackler, I think they should also be aware of what ball-carriers are doing on the fringes of the law to potentially milk penalties in contact. It seems to me the hand-off has gone out of fashion and instead we see so many players leading with their head or forearm when they go into contact as they try and get lower while keeping the ball safe.
‘How can you safely tackle someone who is running that low without hitting their head? It’s not easy. What ball-carriers do could endanger opponents. It is very much a two-way street.’
Kaplan further questioned officials’ handling of the aerial contest, which often results in controversial send-offs at crucial moments in a game.
‘I would like referees to be encouraged to use their judgement more. At the moment we look almost solely at outcomes from aerial challenges, but I would like them to ask primarily whether a challenge was a genuine, realistic attempt to play the ball. If it was and one player fell awkwardly then that is simply part of the game. More empathy is the way forward.’
He also asked for better policing of the offside lines, which has often been the topic of debate during matches.
‘The pressure a rush defence puts on the ball-carrying team is incredibly hard to live with if executed correctly, but it is also a system that means you are always playing on the cusp of offside.
‘You rely on trigger moments to make your move, and referees are not as hot on this as they might be.’