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Heimlich Maneuver in the Park

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With the waiting finally over the World Cup kicked off with an amazing ceremony in Auckland before the All Blacks took on Tonga on last Friday night.

What has been great about all the matches so far is that all the so called ‘minnows’ are anything but. The conditions have played there part – but the smaller nations have stepped up and significantly demonstrated that the gap is closing.

An upset is definitely on the cards. Other than the All Blacks obligatory choke! It seems that 24 years is too long to wait – and the pressure is mounting with Graham Henry rotating his team yet again.

The biggest talking point was over the officiating of the Wales v South Africa match – with the Welsh squad and management calling foul over a missed penalty kick.

A kick that missed. A kick that the replays showed as inconclusive – but appeared to have missed. A kick that THREE officials all agreed missed.

Lets not focus on the other two missed penalties, their try from a forward pass or the missed dropped goal in front of the posts. Wales smashed South Africa all over the park – but couldn’t seal the deal.

But rather than focus on their own short comings they are focusing on blaming the officials for not taking the action they are not able to take – and the action that if they did (by going to the TMO) – would have told them the kick missed!

Last weekend I had an irate coach very unhappy about a similar moment within the first half. A line out within their 22 that led to a driving maul and a crash over try.

The coach was furious – lambasting me for not noticing it was not straight. It was straight but that is irrelevant. On and on he went about parity and continuity.

I nodded and listened and then mischievously suggested it may not have been straight – a rare error from me on the day. But there were many errors and problems in the game. I offered to go as far as buying him a pint for every error he felt I made – in exchange for a pint for every mistake his team made.

He declined ruefully.

His team lost 66-0!

PMT…

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Pre-Match Tension is as much an issue for referees as it is for players.  As we approach big matches the pressure can suddenly be switched on, you dont want to fail.

But this is different for the ref than a player in many ways.  Players, coaches and supporters are focused on winning the match.  As a ref you are never in the ‘winning’ camp! You are a team of one; a constituency of one!

With several big fixtures ahead this month and next I have been speaking to other Premiership and Championship referees – how do they focus – and what makes them nervous.

For me the pressure comes from within.  I am less concerned now with the coaches viewpoint.  Not because I am not interested, but because their interpretations are often far from that of the referee (although this does raise the clear need for coaches, senior players and referees to work more closely together to bridge the gaps – to help produce better rugby though better understanding).

This week I am focusing on my key objectives for the game:

1. Enjoy the game

2. Referee assertively and calmly throughout

3. Communicate simply

Approaching the game with the same relaxed mind set as any normal match, ignore the crowd (which is easier with larger crowds as you cant distinguish what is being said) and focus on the moment in front of me.

I also use music during my pre-match warm up, drowning out the noise around me and trying to visualise key aspects of the game.

I also write notes in my ref’s book I have on the field with me for if I remain nervous: “BREATHE!”….