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  • Writer's pictureJohn Evans

January 2023 Newsletter

Happy New Year! 2023 should be an interesting year on and off the field of play. Rugby is in a state of change in so many ways and it’s probably one of the most dynamic, fluid and challenging periods of rugby governance and politics that I can recall. My major personal worries are the needs of the grassroots game, serious head and other injuries and the challenges of recruiting volunteers and referees.

Anyway, enough of my whingeing!

Good to see the coach who physically abused our own Sam Grove-White get a 10-week ban. This newsletter covers a range of issues including the World Rugby Law Amendments announced at the end of last year. These are set out in the first section and we can discuss them at our January and February meetings. I’ve taken them directly from the World Rugby release.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to our Annual Dinner on Saturday, 28th January. . We’re back in Teviot at Edinburgh University. Have around 65 people attending from across a range of generations. Confirmation emails will be issued over the next 2-3 weeks so that everyone knows the timings, menu, schedule etc.

We’re also planning for next season so if there’s something you like to see covered at a monthly meeting or done differently just let any of the committee or me know. We also have an ERRS WhatsApp group. If you’re not on it and would like to be added then please let me know - I’ll need your mobile number.

World Rugby Law Amendments World Rugby looks to enhance the flow of the game with law application guidelines World Rugby has announced a series of law applications which will be implemented game-wide from 1 January 2023.

The guidelines, which are designed to assist match officials, players and coaches and to enhance fan experience are part of a drive by the international federation to speed up the game and reflect key outcomes of the Shape of the Game Conference in November.

With Rugby World Cup 2023 fast approaching, the new directives are designed to support a quicker, more entertaining game while balancing safety and spectacle. From 1 January 2023, the following will apply:

Speeding up the game Players and match officials are reminded of the following existing laws which must be strictly adhered to:

  • Law 8.8d Conversion. [The kicker] takes the kick within 90 seconds (playing time) from the time the try was awarded, even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again. Sanction: Kick is disallowed.

  • Law 8.21: Penalty Kick: The kick must be taken within 60 seconds (playing time) from the time the team indicated their intention to do so, even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again. Sanction: Kick is disallowed and a scrum is awarded.

  • Law 9.7d: A player must not waste time. Sanction Free Kick

  • Law 18.12 Lineout: Teams form the lineout without delay. Sanction: Free-kick.

  • Law 19.4 Scrum: Teams must be ready to form the scrum within 30 seconds of the mark being made. Sanction: Free-kick.

The whole sport is encouraged to apply these guidelines to speed up the game and elite matches competitions will be encouraged to use a “shot clock” as trialled in the LNR/ FFR competitions when practically possible.

World Rugby Director of Rugby Phil Davies said: “World Rugby, member unions and competitions will work with broadcasters and match hosts to implement on-screen (stadia and broadcast) shot clocks for penalties and conversions to ensure referees, players and fans can view the countdown, mirroring what happens in the LNR and Sevens."

Less reliance on Television Match Official (TMO) reviews Match officials are reminded that the current TMO protocol is aimed at identifying and ensuring clear and obvious offences are dealt with on-field.

Davies added: “There was excellent debate at the Shape of the Game conference on this topic, including leading match officials, coaches and player representatives. It was agreed that reviews can often take too long, suggesting the offence being reviewed is not clear and obvious. While we can always enhance the technology interaction to speed up the process, the match official teams – led by the referee - should attempt to make speedier decisions andlimit replays where not necessary.”

World Rugby will be working with match official managers to ensure consistent application of the process.

Fewer water carrier interventions The Global Law Trial on limiting the number of water carriers to two, and reducing the times they enter the field, has successfully reduced unnecessary stoppages. However, creating set windows for water breaks has created the impression of disrupting the game, even if that water was taken during a natural stoppage (try/injury/TMO review).

Davies added: “Following discussions with stakeholders, an amendment to the current global law trial covering water carriers will allow water onto the field when a try is scored. Participating competitions and unions are reminded of the 60/90 second limits on kick times. Only in a game with no tries, should a natural stoppage be used.

This amendment to the current trial protocol was supported by the Technical zone/ water carrier working group. This group includes player, coach, referee and competition representatives.

Penalising negative player actions Reinforcing rugby’s values, referees will be asked to be strong on negative player actions. For example, Trapping players into ruck, and first arriving players (the jackler) not aiming to play the ball.

Players are reminded about their responsibilities not to hold the ball or walk off with the ball at penalties – this reduces attacking options by the non-offending team and slows the game down unnecessarily and will be sanctioned.

Penalising players with hands on the floor to support body weight Players who put their hands on the floor at tackles, rucks and mauls are subject to sanction, although judgement can be used if the player is using the ground briefly to maintain their own balance and stability.

Law definitions and relevant clauses:

  • Off feet: Players are off their feet when any other part of the body is supported by the ground or players on the ground.

  • On feet: Players are on their feet if no other part of their body is supported by the ground or players on the ground.

  • Tackle law 14.8a Other players must: Remain on their feet and release the ball and the ball-carrier immediately, and 14.8b Remain on their feet when they play the ball.

  • Ruck law 15.12: Players must endeavour to remain on their feet throughout the ruck

  • Maul law 16.9: All other players in a maul must endeavour to stay on their feet

Clarity on deliberate knock-ons What is and what isn’t a deliberate knock on often causes of debate. All participants are reminded of the following existing laws:

  • 3. A player must not intentionally knock the ball forward with hand or arm. Sanction: Penalty.

  • 4. It is not an intentional knock-on if, in the act of trying to catch the ball, the player knocks on provided that there was a reasonable expectation that the player could gain possession.

Players must endeavour to catch the ball. Referees are asked to show good judgement when deciding if a player has a reasonable expectation of catching and gaining possession, and then in determining a sanction.

Commenting on the latest directives, World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “As a sport, a movement and a family, we must always challenge ourselves to be better. That means taking time to consider what fans and players want the future of our sport to be, a future where more people want to play and support the game, where injury risk is reducing and where all involved in the game have their say.

“These law application guidelines are a step on the road to reimagining our sport and come directly from the Shape of the Game conference in London in November, attended by players, coaches, referees, union CEOs and competition owners. By working together, we can achieve positive outcomes. I would like to thank all for their contributions and the match officials specifically for implementing the directives and we look forward to seeing the results.”

It might happen to any of us..... It’s been a quiet few weeks with almost no regional rugby played since early December so there haven’t been too many ‘it happened to me’.

However, what has been pleasing, in a strange kind of way, is that clubs have made contact when they’ve wished to apologise to a referee for something that had been said from the touchline or elsewhere during a game. It feels like Match Official Abuse is now on club agendas too.

Fitness and Nutrition The next fitness sessions for ERRS members are as follows:

  • Wednesday 18th January – Hall 1 from 7-8pm- speed and agility

  • Monday 30th January – Indoor Athletics from 7-8pm- bronco test

These will take place at the newly re-vamped Meadowbank indoor facilities that are excellent. Mark Sinclair will be in charge.

For guidance, here are the bronco targets for the respective national categories of referees. If you wish to be considered for nomination to the Transition Panel then you should be hitting Category 4 targets in the ERRS sessions.




4 (Transition Panel)

5 mins 30 secs

6 mins

3 (National 2)

5 mins 30 secs

6 mins

2 (National 1)

5 mins 15 secs

5 mins 45 secs

1 (Premiership)

5 mins

5 mins 30 secs

We are also planning a 10-week pre-season training provision. Mark is firmly of the view that if we have a good pre-season, it will set us up for a successful season. More details to follow shortly but we expect to start in late June.


  • Mid-June- Bronco (endurance)

  • Speed (20m and 40m dash test)

  • Agility

We are looking to run 1 squad session per week (ideally on a Monday) at a venue ue such as Meggetland or Raeburn Place or similar over 10 pre-season squad sessions and we will also send out bike and rowing sessions for individual sessions as well

ERRS and Scottish Rugby Partnership Agreement As members know, we have a Partnership Agreement with Scottish Rugby and this provides funding for our work in areas such as fitness, coaching, equipment purchases and recruitment. Our focus this season is on:

  • Recruitment and retention

  • Allocations

  • Fitness and nutrition

  • The development of our ERRS Academy that feeds into the Scottish Rugby Transition and Panel Groups

  • The development of our Young Referees’ Academy – working with clubs and schools

  • The continuous development of our coaches

  • Communication and social media

We have several commitments but one that causes me concern is this. ERRS will actively encourage referees to complete the following forms on WTR within 24 hours after the final whistle:

  • Score

  • Red/Yellow Cards (required)

  • Report on Coach (applicable)

  • Report on appointed ARs (applicable)

We need to fill in scores, get reports in and ensure that Scottish Rugby has all the information it needs to manage the administration of the game. Please make sure you can do this and please make sure you have team sheets before a game.

Subscriptions Can I again repeat the plea for subs to be paid ERRS subs are £15 for the season with a voluntary £1 addition to the Murrayfield Injured Players Fund?

Payment should be made to:

  • Edinburgh Rugby Referees’ Society

  • Account Number: 00133451

  • Sort Code: 801114

Please add your first initial and family name as narrative and the word ‘subs’ after it. If you are unable to make the payment just now, then give me a call or drop me an email (07834 521 519/ and we will provide a solution - it’s no issue.

Monthly Meetings Our January Monthly Meeting (9 January) will be at Meggetland (Boroughmuir RFC) at 7pm when we will be looking at communication as well as handing our new second shirt. Kit will only be distributed at monthly meetings other than the start of the season so if you don’t make arrangements to collect or have one collected in January it will be February before the next opportunity arises.

Our February Monthly Meeting will focus on Sevens refereeing and Fin Brown will bring his World Sevens Series experiences to share and help us.

ERRS Heritage We have a rich heritage in Edinburgh Rugby Referees’ Society and many of us are not fully aware of the fantastic veins of talent and contributions we’ve brought to rugby across the world over more than 50 years.

We want to build a heritage section on our website so if you have any material that you think might be of interest to others then let me know. If you’d like to help create the digital archive, then let Brodie Duncan or me know.

We have just published our first part of the Heritage section with a short history of ERRS.

And finally....... Please remember, we are here to support each other- on and off the field. If any of us want to talk about anything at all, please reach out.

We have a qualified mental health first aider in Liam Burnell and Liam is available to support any of us should we so wish. Liam spoke at the September meeting and the information he provided is set out below.

Please keep feeding back the comments on how ERRS is being run, what we can do better and anything we can add. We are here as the unofficial Match Officials’ Rugby Club and we want it to be fun, enjoyable and worth being part of.

Best wishes,

John Evans

ERRS President

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