The world’s top international referees and referee managers met in London this week for the annual IRB High Performance Referee Conference.
The meeting gave the opportunity to discuss refereeing best practice and recent trends and developments in rugby union.
Headline topics of discussion included the need to stamp out illegal off the ball tackles and the area of reset and collapsed scrums at the elite level of the game.
The area of illegal tackles was highlighted and the group expressed its commitment to stricter policing of illegal clearing out of players off the ball at the ruck and illegal tackles in open play.
Scrum collapses and resets were also on the agenda. IRB analysis of a cross section of Tier 1 matches over the past three years has identified an increase in infringements in this area at the very top level of the game.
International matches now average 18 scrums with an average of 18 collapsed or reset scrums.
Average match time consumed by the scrum is currently 16% and climbs as high as 25% in some cases.
International Rugby Board Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The scrum is an integral part of the fabric of the game, providing a unique sporting spectacle and contest.
“There is an obligation for referees and players to ensure that this critical area is played in accordance with law, while the promotion of player welfare is of paramount importance.
“The IRB’s high performance referees have agreed to be extra vigilant regarding 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.
“Particular attention will be focused on front rows adhering to the engagement sequence, observation of the mark and the correct binding techniques.”
Lapasset added: “Addressing these key elements of scrum officiating will assist with reducing the number of resets or collapses.”
The need to promote consistency and a fair contest for possession was also on the agenda and the referees are committed to stricter vigilance of offside from kicks, illegal scrum feeds and obstruction at the formation of the maul.