Whilst the All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup with a convincing win over the Wallabies, the real talking point was the appointment of Glen Jackson as Assistant Referee for his first international outing.
Jackson hung up his boots in 2010 after playing 130 matches for Saracens, and having played for Bay of Plenty and Chiefs before the North London side. He was a fantastic player, and whilst he represented New Zealand Maori, he was unfortunate not to get higher international honours. Well it appears that the NZRFU and IRB might make that dream come true – as a referee.
The game needs referees who have played at the highest levels, as they bring a greater understanding and empathy for the game – understanding the pressures the players and teams face on the biggest stage.
Also making a rapid return to international rugby was Kiwi bad boy Steve Walsh. Walsh who became notorious for his on and off field antics, which led to a ban during the 2003 World Cup and then led to him being effectively fired by the NZRFU and IRB after allegedly turning up to a conference intoxicated. Since then he has reformed and now represents Australia as a ref – and has been appointed to the 2011 World Cup, the rugby equivalent of Lazarus returned from the dead!
And whilst the international boys were warming up for the coming season, I also strapped on my boots for the first time. Conditions were perfect as two National League sides blew out the summer cobwebs in a cracking, fast paced encounter.
The home side, who had the sharper edge in the three quarters, squandered four gilt edge changes, mostly through a lack of clinical finishing and rustiness. However, they kept creating and testing, and eventually they overran the visiting Scottish side with seven top drawer tries – whilst the Scots managed three scrappy tries through there dominant pack.
What was pleasing was that, whilst I too was rusty (and made one real clanger!) I quickly found my rhythm and felt comfortable with the pace and level of the game. Next up is another National league warm up where I hope to move through the gears a bit quicker.