Europe's top referees and referee managers met in London on Thursday for the annual Northern Hemisphere IRB High Performance Referee Conference.
Under the central theme of global and consistent performance, the meeting provided an opportunity to consider refereeing best practice and establish key focus areas as momentum builds towards the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
With the RBS 6 Nations Championship reaching its conclusion last weekend, IRB Referee Manager Paddy O'Brien reiterated the need for consistent and universal application of law in five key areas, in accordance with directives issued to all Unions in November 2009:
a) refereeing of offsides at the ruck b) offside from kicks c) illegal maul formation causing obstruction d) slowing down of scrum engagement sequence e) accuracy of application of the tackle law
O'Brien said: "The Northern Hemisphere meeting is a key element of the referee feedback and training process and enables us to review performances as a team, consider the latest trends in the game and reiterate the key focus areas to ensure consistency.
"The meeting forms part of an integrated cross-hemisphere approach, with the same review process scheduled for Southern Hemisphere-based referees and referee managers in July in order to review performance and further promote global consistency of the application of law at Test and national competition level."
The IRB's high performance referees have agreed to be extra vigilant in the area of scrum resets and associated infringements at the elite level of the game where the issue is more prominent.
"The referees have been reminded of their obligation to penalise clear and obvious offences at the scrum in order to address the number of resets and to insist on a zero tolerance policy to players who fail to follow the referee's calling of the engagement procedure," added O'Brien.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has joined a host of political, sporting and broadcasting legends to send a message of support to the Ireland Women's squad ahead of the forthcoming Women's Rugby World Cup, which begins in Paris next Friday.
Speaking after the IRFU's Annual Council meeting, Chief Executive Philip Browne highlighted the importance of ticket revenue to the Union and also their sustained investments in the professional and domestic games.
Listen to post-match reaction from captains Anton Lienert-Brown and Peadar Timmins following the Ireland Under-20s' 45-23 loss to New Zealand in the IRB Junior World Championship 3rd/4th place play-off at Eden Park.
Earlier this week the Ireland squad and management were guests at a reception in Buenos Aires hosted by James McIntyre, the Irish Ambassador to Argentina. We spoke to team manager Michael Kearney and IRFU President Pat Fitzgerald on the night.
Looking forward to the second Test against Argentina, Iain Henderson said: "We need to get our breakdown right and make sure we get a good return from our set piece. If we do that, the backs will look after the rest for us."
Ireland Under-20 head coach Mike Ruddock was 'really pleased' with the performance of his players as they claimed a 38-0 bonus point win over Fiji to advance to the IRB Junior World Championship semi-finals as Pool B winners.