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'It's a real void' - Lancaster believes URC needs new referee manager

Greg Garner left the role during the summer.

LEINSTER SENIOR COACH Stuart Lancaster said there is “a void” in the United Rugby Championship without a referee manager currently in place.

Former international Greg Garner had been in the position of elite referee manager for the Pro14 but he departed the organisation during the summer and there has been no announcement of a replacement yet.

Connacht boss Andy Friend highlighted the absence of a referee manager after his team’s defeat to Munster last weekend and Leinster’s Lancaster has also suggested that the position needs to be filled so refereeing standards can improve.

“Using England as an example, although Tony Spreadbury just left to become the new EPCR referees manager and they have to now replace Tony Spreadbury,” said Lancaster yesterday.

“But in England, you’ve had Tony Spreadbury who is managing the referees.

“Every week, they would meet on a conference call, take the respective learnings from each and every game that’s been played in the Premiership.

“I don’t think it’s any coincidence that a lot of the English referees are rising up to become international referees because the development and management they get in terms of feedback… how do you develop if you don’t get feedback, if you don’t coordinate decisions and assess the form of the officials?

“In the URC, Greg Garner’s position was slightly different. He was trying to manage referees in different countries, each of which has their own referees’ manager and I think that made it harder.

“Now, there’s no Greg Garner at all and I think it’s a real void, I really do.

“Personally, we feel like the performances of the referees in our [Leinster] games have been fine, certainly no complaints from us in any of the games we’ve played to date.

“The quality has been there, the worry would be that there’s no central point to co-ordinate feedback, we get inconsistency across the board and we don’t get learnings.

“World Rugby have their own [process] – Joe [Schmidt] and Joël Jutge, the referees’ manager, the top end you have that sort of coordinated system where you’ve got Joël Jutge trying to manage referees from different countries. It’s those guys leading from the top and refereeing the game the way it should be refereed, that will trickle down.

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“That has to be done from the top, if there’s no one at the top then it begs the question of how the referees can continue to develop.”

Lancaster said Leinster head coach Leo Cullen leads the province’s interactions regarding match officials, but underlined that providing feedback is crucial for the development of the URC and the sport in general.

“It’s not something I have to deal with, to be honest. Leo has a contact point at URC where he can submit feedback on the game and then a debate takes place,” said Lancaster.

“From my own personal involvement with referees, I’m certainly trying to set up a situation with Joe [Schmidt] to pass on what we’re learning in Europe and what we see at the top end of the game because we think it’s important.

“Teams like Leinster, you want to play attacking rugby with high ball-in-play time, the breakdowns be refereed accurately. So, it’s in our interests to get involved in this space and that’s why I’m trying to get involved in that regard.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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