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.
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne and Ireland Women's out-half and IRFU Women's & Girls Rugby Development Executive Nora Stapleton talk about the Irish bid to host the next Women's Rugby World Cup in 2017.
Looking forward to facing England on Sunday, Ireland winger Tommy Bowe said: "We've trained very well this week, we're really excited about the game. It's about going out there and doing whatever we can to get ourselves that win."
Second row Devin Toner previews Ireland's crunch RBS 6 Nations clash with England, saying: "It's a pretty formidable English pack. Attwood and Kruis have played fantastically well. They're well drilled and focused and their scrum and lineout are very good."
Looking forward to facing England this weekend, Ireland back rower Sean O'Brien said: "It's obviously exciting, but it's one game at a time. I don't think there's any more pressure on us than in the first two games. That's the way you have to look at it."
Irish Rugby TV sat down with Ireland Under-20 scrum coach John Fogarty to talk about the U-20 Six Nations so far and Friday's clash with England at Donnybrook. Tickets are on sale on www.ticketmaster.ie.
Ireland Under-20 captain Nick McCarthy and fellow back Billy Dardis spoke to Irish Rugby TV about Friday's U-20 Six Nations showdown with England at Donnybrook. Tickets available on www.ticketmaster.ie.
Shane Byrne and Malcolm O'Kelly preview the Ireland v England Legends match which takes place at Donnybrook this coming Saturday (kick-off 7.30pm). Tickets are available from www.ticketmaster.ie. All proceeds from the game will go to support the IRFU Charitable Trust and the RFU All Schools Charity.
Watch highlights from the Ireland team announcement press conference as Joe Schmidt reveals the team to play France. Peter O'Mahony says it is good to 'have some big figures back' for Saturday's clash.