Leinster not over-analysing Garcès' 'slightly different' refereeing style

The Frenchman takes charge of Saturday’s Champions Cup final.

THE APPOINTMENT OF Jérome Garcès to referee Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final has certainly raised concern among Leinster supporters, particularly following the Frenchman’s officiating of the breakdown in Saracens’ win over Munster.

Garcès, who also took charge of Leinster’s quarter-final victory over the English side in last year’s quarter-final in Dublin, will referee his first Champions Cup decider this weekend. 

Jerome Garces Garces was in charge for last year's quarter-final between Leinster and Saracens. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

There was a huge amount of post-match talk about Garcès’ ‘laissez-faire’ interpretation at the breakdown, with the 45-year-old quite lenient towards Saracens around the contest area and offside line at stages during the semi-final in Coventry. 

Of course, Leinster have experience of dealing with Garcès and will have studied his refereeing traits in the build-up to the St James’ Park showdown, particularly the tape from Munster’s defeat to Mark McCall’s side and how he policed the set-piece and offside line.

The defending champions are fully aware of his style and that discipline will be absolutely key on Saturday evening, no more so than against Saracens who can quickly build up a lead and scoreboard advantage through the boot of Owen Farrell.

“He has refereed a lot of the games I have been involved in and games a lot of the players have been involved in and when you get to the back end of European club rugby there is a small pool of referees that tend to do these games,” Stuart Lancaster says of this weekend’s referee, who will be supported by touch judges Romain Poite and Pascal Gauzère and TMO Philippe Bonhoure in Newcastle. 

“It’s all about us understanding what he is looking for and abiding by that. It is as simple as that. If we start giving away dumb penalties at the ruck or whatever then Owen Farrell is good enough to kick them from up to halfway and they can go three, six, nine points ahead.

“That’s exactly what Saracens want, they can control the game and build pressure and then you start chasing the game.”

While Leinster will have analysed the referee — including Garcès’ communication, his recent penalty balance between set-piece and broken play and his decision-making process — they know they cannot become distracted by his particular style.

James Ryan James Ryan speaking to media at UCD yesterday. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

While the Frenchman is officiating his first Champions Cup final having previously been in charge for three Challenge Cup finals, Garcès has built up a large body of experience at club and Test level in recent years, and his perceived approach at the breakdown will be nothing new to both sides this weekend. 

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“We look at the referee coming into every game, so it’s something that we’ll be aware of,” James Ryan says.

“I don’t think we ever over-analyse the officials. If we get our stuff right and paint the right pictures then the rest will look after itself. So, as I said, we’re conscious of it but I think if we get our bits right and attack right, our breakdown shouldn’t be a problem.”

The Leinster second row added: “Yeah, he probably referees slightly different to some refs but talking about the breakdown, Saracens get most of their turnovers not on the ground but from ‘reefs’, from big dominant tackles as opposed to poaches.

“So, as I said, that’s why we’re going to need to be direct this week because if they’re dominating us on the gain-line then we can forget about who is reffing or how he sees the pictures, because it’s not going to matter.” 

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