New Zealand to trial two referees per game

New Zealand referee Glen Jackson

New Zealand’s provincial championship is to take the radical move of experimenting with two referees next year, according to a report Saturday as World Rugby looks at a dramatic shake-up of the game’s laws.

The bold innovation of twin referees is one of a number of changes being looked at — with others focusing on the tackle and ruck areas — as rugby looks to build on its growing popularity.

A report into the recent World Cup in England found it was both the best attended in the tournament’s history and drew a record 120 million viewers around the world.

The idea of two referees has been mooted for several years and has already been successfully trialled in South Africa’s Varsity Cup competition.

New Zealand Rugby has not officially confirmed its role in the experiment but a spokesman indicated to AFP a statement on the issue may be issued in the near future.

“They (changes) are widely known after provincial unions sounded out clubs across the country about whether or not they wanted their premier competitions to trial the rules in order to prepare players for the representative season,” Fairfax Media reported.

“Two referees will officiate together during New Zealand’s national provincial championship next year as part of a World Rugby trial of proposed rule changes.”

Grant van Velden, a high performance sports scientist at Stellenbosch University near Cape Town, believes it is “an almost impossible task” for one referee to control a game of rugby.

“The Varsity Cup has successfully trialled the two referee system for the last few tournaments with outstanding success,” said Van Velden, who has worked with the South African Rugby Referees Association as well as several Springboks and Wallabies.

“A referee simply cannot give 100 percent focus to one area without another area suffering.”

The second referee is expected to primarily focus on a new offside line one metre (yard) back from rucks.

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