O'Brien gives thumbs-up to referees
AUCKLAND, 6 Oct. - Paddy O'Brien, the IRB Referee Manager, has declared himself pleased that the scrum has not developed into an area of contention at Rugby World Cup 2011.
Before the tournament the scrum had been identified as a potential source of problems for match officials. But O'Brien said after 40 matches that had proved not to be the case.
"I think the scrummaging during the tournament so far has not been a key part of the World Cup," he said.
"I mean there have been some issues with some teams, but I suppose (a feeling going) into the tournament was that the scrums might dominate but they haven’t.
"I just think that the willingness of all teams to participate within the laws of the game has been a feature and that has been a standout for me."
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Praise should also be given for the players' respect of the offside area, he said.
"We have seen players certainly buy into offside around the fringes. We think there has been a huge improvement there."
O'Brien is also happy with the performance of his referees and, asked what mark out of 10 he would give to the officials, he replied: "I would give them seven-and-a-half to eight with an arrow going upwards.
"We are never going to reach 10 because the nature of the game doesn’t allow us to but I want to see us get to at least nine come quarter-finals onwards."
The perfect 10 was not possible because everyone makes mistakes, he said.
"Of course there have been some errors, and we have addressed them with the referees. You are not going to have no errors in 40 games of rugby, but as an overall package I am delighted with the refereeing.
"We can get better and hopefully come the last eight matches, which are hugely important, the accuracy will be paramount.
"There’s going to be errors by players, there’s going to be errors by referees. We will minimise them and we also want to make sure that if there are errors, they are not game-changing decisions."
New Zealander O'Brien, 52, is responsible for ensuring consistency among referees in interpretation and he must also assess performances and decide who makes up the IRB Referees' Panel.
He said the high quality of the refereeing had added to everyone's enjoyment of RWC 2011.
"I think as a spectacle it has been fantastic," he said. "You only have to watch the games on TV, see how the crowds have embraced it, and the quality of the rugby has been outstanding. There has to be some credit given to the referees there."
But he hoped that after the final whistle on 23 October the name on everyone's lips would not be the referee's.
"Let’s hope at the end of it we are talking about the quality of the rugby and not about some refereeing decision."
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