There are very specific dimensions for the width, length and configuration of the modern day rugby pitch. All of which provide acres of green grass for 31 individuals to graze.
However, as an ex-backrow player I have a strange attraction to rucks and mauls, like a needle on a compass to magnetic north. This has led to a few scrapes over the last few seasons when I have become too involved in the action.
Positioning is critical for the referee, particularly as you progress up the levels. Too close and you may miss something out wide, too far and you’ll miss something up close!
Last week I got concused by a fly-half! A very tight contest, last few minutes, deep in the opposition 22m and bang in front of the posts. Fly-half drops back into the pocket, I turn, sharp move 6m and 45% to his right and 8m in front. Perfect position to see the kick and the posts. WHALLOP! The fly-half smashes it, slices of the side of the boot and into the back of my head – and I end sprawled and dazed on the floor!
Then there was the match in Gloucester when I got pincered between the tackler and the ball carrier. End result was having to referee 10 mins with a dislocated shoulder (which the very attractive physios – from both teams – had managed to put back in!). Or the match where I appeared to be too quick for the winger, and as he went to side step the last defender I “accidently” tripped him, sending him head first into the mud just a couple of metres short!
Whilst on referee tour in Milan I got more and more frustrated as a team scored more and more tries, but kept slotting the conversions under the bar – more a football style penalty than conversion. So I stepped up a took the last conversion of the match – which even if I had missed I still would have awarded!
I also got punched three times in a match by a prop at scrum time. I was too close to the props, and he had a massive reach. Every time he went to bind onto his opposite number he’d clock me on the face. I was the only person coming off the pitch with a black eye!
Finally, last weekend, a player who had been yellow carded decided that my signal from a line-out, that the backs could now come up from the 10m, was his signal to also re-enter the fray… He came charging onto the field during open play, made a cracking tackle and forced the knock-on, only for me to realise he was back on the pitch. Comedy ensued, but a second yellow for not fulfilling his 10min sanction, meant he didn’t see the funny side. I will limit my signalling in future.
The grass may be greener on the other side, but the other side of the fence is for spectators!