Veteran Welsh referee Nigel Owens has listed three law changes he believes should be implemented next year to increase safety, reduce contentious decisions and make the scrum more of a contest.
Owens, who retired from Test refereeing in 2020 having officiated a record 100 Test matches, penned his three-point plan in a column for the Telegraph.
1. Fewer replacements
Owens would like to see the number of replacements reduced from eight to four or five.
“This is something I have been saying for a long time.
“Every question and answer session I do I am always asked which law I would like to change and I always say I would like to see the substitution law changed.
“We as referees and referee managers in World Rugby, we’re always looking at things that need to be applied firmer, which contributes to the safety of the game and that is an ongoing process.
“It is a physical game and unless you change it beyond total recognition of what the sport is, you are going to have to accept that there is going to be a risk of injury, but a minimal risk if you compare it to people that are injured everyday in walking about doing nothing.”
2. Limited TMO involvement
“We should aim for good performances that facilitate good games. In my opinion, perfect has become the enemy of the good because people are striving for a standard that is unachievable. A frustrating over-reliance on the TMO is one result of this fear of getting things wrong.
“Pressure is being exerted on referees by spectators, social media users, coaches, players, performance reviewers and referee managers. That is a lot of people scrutinising everything. I think we need to take a step back and make sure we pick up the things that matter.”
3. Clampdown on crooked scrum feeds
“Some of the scrum feeds from in the Test series between Springboks and Lions – particularly by Cobus Reinach – were beyond a joke.
“I must say that I have been as guilty of not giving enough free kicks for crooked feeds as any referee, but it has to be stopped as soon as possible now. Scrum-halves simply have to put the ball into scrums in an acceptable manner.
“Everyone you speak to about it wants feeds to be straight. Brian Moore has been making the point for years and I agree with him. Everyone comments on it, and there is no excuse. It has been allowed to creep in, after a brief crackdown a couple of years ago.”