Wayne Barnes at Ealing – 2009

 Wayne Barnes’ Tackle Area

The tackle area is one of the most contentious areas of the game at the moment and features in almost every match report, from the Premiership down to the community game. It generates commentary from enthusiasts and frequently results in negative feedback to referees from coaches and players. Frustration abounds. The referee has to contend with players coming off their feet, slowing delivery of the ball from the tackle and ensuing rucks, coming in from the side and producing negative play. The speed at which the breakdown occurs and events then take place on the ground make it extremely hard to referee, but as referees we have a duty to referee this area correctly in law and to manage it to produce a fair contest and a more flowing, better quality game, in which both teams believe they have been treated fairly. Equally players must remember that it is they who are playing negatively, not the referee and must adapt their behaviour.

Wayne provided Ealing referees with an excellent evening in which he explained how to apply the laws in this area and his vision for the management of this aspect of the game. Wayne is not only an excellent speaker, he is able to explain his thought process very clearly and effectively and the referees came away with a much greater understanding. If we are able to put this into effect, the game will be far better for it.

So what are Wayne’s top tips? Well, in summary they are:

  • Only blow the whistle if it is necessary.
  • An offence must be “clear and obvious”.
  • The offence must be “material”; i.e. it must have an effect on the game. If not, let it go. Ask yourself, “Do I have to give it”.

At the tackle:

  • Move the tackler. The first task is to get him to release the tackled player, move and get back on his feet. If he does not and interferes with play, then this is the first offence, not the arriving players who come off their feet, come in from the side or use hands in the ruck.
  • Once the tackler has moved, then focus on the other issues.
  • Arriving players must stay on their feet. They must support their own body weight on the feet – not by leaning on the ground or other players. If they do, they are off their feet and liable to penalty.
  • The tackler can get to his feet and play the ball from any direction, so long as the ruck has not formed.
  • Other players must “come through the gate”. This is defined by the width of the ball carrier on the ground parallel to the goal line.
  • Other players who are on their feet and arrive through the gate can play the ball with their hands so long as the ruck has not formed, and may keep their hands on the ball.
  • The ball carrier must release, pass or place the ball immediately – but allow more time if no opposition players are competing.

Thanks to Wayne for an excellent evening and thanks to all those who attended. If anyone has any questions arising from the session, please direct them to one of the clubs senior referees and we will attempt to answer them.