Longford RFC Club News 08/03/2021   08/03/2021

By Tommy Butler Longford RFC PRO lrfconnects@gmail.com 

Rugby Digest

The final rest weekend of the Six Nations took place on the weekend past.  However, two provincial derbies took place with Connacht visiting Munster and Leinster travelling to Ravenhill to take on Ulster.  Even though all sides were down numbers due to Ireland commitments, none more so than Leinster, two gripping fixtures ensued.  Both Connacht and Ulster needed to win to keep alive their prospects of reaching the Pro-14 final but ultimately Munster and Leinster just had too much.  The Leinster game saw referee Frank Murphy taking centre stage producing four yellow cards and a red card for Ulster prop Ricky Warwick on thirty minutes for a swinging arm, which undoubtedly aided Leinster who ran out easy 19-38 winners after Ulster had roared into a 12-3 lead.  

Referees and refereeing have certainly been in the cross hairs for most people over the last few months.  Refereeing is undoubtedly not an easy job requiring split second decisions and interpretation of what can be a very complicated rule book.  However, we have no game without our referees and one of the cornerstones of our game is the respect the referee is offered.  Bearing this mind, it is of upmost importance to show our referees courtesy.  It is fine to questions their decisions but please do so in a respectful way as like everyone else that they always go out and try to do their best.  Bearing all this in mind we asked our club referees lead by Trevor McHugh to put together some articles on refereeing and interpretation of the game’s laws.  Longford RFC have a proud history of supplying referees who have refed on the highest stage.  We are always looking for more recruits, so if you think that you could do a good job, please contact Trevor McHugh who is our club refereeing coordinator.  Thanks to Trevor, Tommy Lyons, Cal Jones and Shaun Cunningham for taking the time to explain some of new law interpretations and recent high-profile decisions.

From the Referees Point of View

Trevor McHugh – Leinster Branch Referee

With the 6 Nations and Pro14 providing most of our weekend sporting entertainment (as well as Cian McPhillips!) the level of scrutiny of rugby referees and their decisions has been at a whole new level.

With this in mind Longford RFC’s referees have put pen to paper to try and enlighten rugby lovers in the complex world of rugby laws and interpretation.

Just to illustrate the complexity of Rugby laws there are 45 possible infringements at a line out, 45 at a scrum, 23 at a tackle, 19 at a ruck and only 14 at a maul!  So, multiply this by the number of these plays in a match and the magnitude of the referee’s job becomes apparent.

I’m going to concentrate on just one incident from the recent Wales vs England game. Welsh winger, Louis Rees-Zammit, received a pass which came off his hand, fell onto his calf, went backwards, was kicked forward and eventually resulted in a Welsh try. The point of contention was whether the ball was “knocked forward” in the initial contact by Rees-Zammit.

The Law books defines a Knock on as “When a player loses possession of the ball and it goes forward, or when a player hits the ball forward with the hand or arm, or when the ball hits the hand or arm and goes forward, and the ball touches the ground or another player before the original player can catch it“.

So, the main point is did the ball go “forward” from the players hand?  Given that he was running forwards when he attempted to catch the ball it is almost a certainty that it did, yet the slow motion replays are less clear that the real time footage and these were what the TMO based his decision on.

The referee has since clarified that he got the decision wrong in this case but to England’s credit they got on with the game rather than focusing on a decision that they had every right to be aggrieved about.

We don’t have TMO or video referrals in the club game and for us as referees the ethos of the game means that similarly contentions decisions are accepted by players and coaches alike and the game goes on. 

Shaun Cunningham – Leinster Branch Referee

Offside from a box kick

Moving away from all the talk of red cards, one observation looking at the eight 6 nations games so far is the way the offside is being refereed far more strictly from the box kick situation. Before, the referee would spend his time asking the scrum half to 'use' and then have to make sure all the backs were behind the number 9 when he eventually did kick, only for the pack that were involved in the previous ruck to gently trot or sprint if they could down the field having never come onside or waited even for a player to bring them onside. Previously we had seen on average 4/5 players at a ruck, the scrum half takes his time in bringing the ball to the furthest point away from the opposition in the ruck before lifting it in his hands and delivering the box kick. By the time the ball had come down there was usually at least half a dozen players within reason could make a play for the ball in the air. Numerous times over the weeks we've seen guilty forwards looking to referee's with almost the look "it was ok in the past".

Cal Jones – Leinster Branch Referee

The new ruck interpretations

Richie McCaw will forever be a name enshrined into the legend and lore of rugby. He is the two-time world cup winning captain of New Zealand, three-time world rugby player of the year and the recent winner of world rugby’s men’s player of the decade award. The curtain came down on his illustrious career a mere six years ago and while many may consider him the greatest in history, if you examine him under 2021 metrics, his game looks practically prehistoric.

His legend was one predicated on breakdown brilliance but under the eyes of Brace or Barnes in 2021, Richie would make the much-maligned Maro Itoje seem almost saintly. Whether by overextending, not supporting his bodyweight or by simply being off his feet, McCaw’s infringements would likely have dwarfed the almost unpalatable five given away by Mr. Itoje last weekend.

This new age of ruck interpretation has undoubtedly had its teething problems but can we not appreciate this new species, these new titans of technique? If Tadgh Beirne is an immense and immovable jackal, then Will Connors is a jack-in-the-box with springs for feet. In an era where reliance on brute force is bemoaned, give thanks for these breakdown boffins.

The truth is, we are all armchair referees and we aren’t all as polite about it as our own Matt Hanley. Long have we been clamouring for consistent ruck refereeing and finally, it has arrived. Refs have taken a bad rap during this Six Nations and while some refereeing decisions have left us head in hands once or twice, I beg of you, please be grateful for the godly gift of good rucks. 

Thomas Lyons - Leinster Branch Referee

“He never let him up ref,” it's a cry any amateur ref will hear from the side-lines in the course of most games. It stems from a misconception that when a player flops down on a ball the opponent has to give him an opportunity to get back up. It's not in law but loads of people think it is.

It's just one of a number of wrongly held beliefs that people hold to convince themselves that they know more than refs. Being a ref is difficult. The decisions people make when they are on the side-lines come from the comfort of not having run for 25 minutes and have your view impeded by a rotund prop before you make it.

Referees make errors, almost in every game. The hope is that those errors are very few and that they balance out over the course of a game giving neither side an advantage.

Occasionally that's not the case. Exhibit A: England V Wales at the Principality Stadium, Saturday February 27, 2021. Despite what people say there was only one issue in this game. In the build up to a Welsh try Louis Rees-Zammit lost the ball forward and it hit his leg without him regaining control of it.  In Pascal Gauzere's defence he went to the TMO who led the decision making process. Letting the TMO lead was his only error.

Another moment of controversy was when England weren't “allowed to set” for a penalty. It may not be in law but the maxim “you snooze you lose” is very much a part of the lexicon of rugby.

There are two lessons to be taken from this game. The first is that referees, or TMOs, are human and as such not immune to making errors. The second is that when the decision goes against you or your team, the ref is always wrong. Except on the scoreboard when the ref is always right.

Ireland v Scotland Preview

Ireland come into the away trip to Edinburgh full of confidence after putting a woeful Italy side to the sword in Rome the last time out.  Since Ireland resoundingly beat them at the last World Cup, Scotland have enjoyed something of a resurgence demonstrated by their first win in Twickenham this year since 1983.  Scotland are playing some great rugby at the moment, led by their brilliant full back Stuart Hogg.  They also have mercurial fly half Finn Russel back in harness.  He is certainly fulfilling the old adage of ‘the opposition never know what he is going to do but then again neither do we’.  Although it is Wales and France who are the moment the lead candidates for the Championship, like Ireland Scotland’s chances were derailed by a red card against the Welsh.  Ireland have based a lot of their victories against Scotland on winning the battle up front.  However, Scotland’s pack has recently stepped up to the mark and largely bullied an English pack in Twickenham who have had Irelands number for the last number of fixtures.  Ireland required to do more than reverting to type with lots of one-off runners and box kicks if they are going to register a second Six Nations win and we will certainly need to see Ireland play with the attacking freedom demonstrated in Rome if they are to be successful. The jury is certainly out on this although the Ireland camp is bullish.  It is easy to take on a woeful defence and it will be interesting to see if Ireland can play some of the same attacking rugby against a rush defence, which Scotland will surely employ knowing that Ireland have repeatedly struggled against such a system.  The best demonstration of this was in Twickenham last year, where Ireland has the lion’s share of possession but just kept running into brick walls all day, with England then picking them off.  Ireland have the rare luxury of being virtually at full strength bar Peter O’Mahony who serves the last match of his red card suspension.  The selection at scrum half is likely to signal Irelands intent from the off.  If Murray starts, expect a lot of box kicking and trucking the ball up, if Gibson Park gets the nod, expect Ireland to try and play a faster more fluid game.  It is a win game for Andy Farrells team.  I am leaning towards Ireland mainly because of our recent record against the Scots where Ireland have won the last 9 of 10 games with the Scots sole triumph being in Edinburgh in 2017.  I am going to nail my colours to the mast and go for win for Ireland 17-24.

Ireland Six Nations 2021 Fixtures

Sunday March 14th Scotland v Ireland 3PM

Saturday March 20th Ireland v England 4.45PM

Skills Challenges

Log on to our Club Community Rugby Officer Dylan Quinn’s Twitter page for weekly skills challenges from Dylan and other Leinster CCRO’s https://twitter.com/quinn_dylan

The Longford/Mini Youth Section have also launched an initiative where club coaches will be posting weekly skills challenge videos.  Log onto https://www.facebook.com/minisrfc to view these.

 It is tough for everyone not being able to train but now is the time to work on your skills especially something you have always wanted to work on as hopefully come September rugby will be back in full swing.  Why not contact your coach and ask him to help you plan a training strategy which you can do from you own home?


All collective training is currently suspended in line with Government and IRFU guidelines.  At the moment, there is no date for a resumption of activities but needless to say we will be ready and willing as soon as we are allowed to do so.  It is possible that a Rugby 7s programme will take place during the Summer to allow players to get back playing rugby.  Rugby 7’s on faster harder pitches is normally a great spectacle.

We would urge all our players and members to keep active during this time. 


Great news, www.longfordrugby.com is back up and running with an updated club crest, which goes back to the future and an updated header and footer.  Check out our website for all things Longford Rugby and more.  If you want to contribute articles or pictures, they are welcome, please email lrfconnects@gmail.com.


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