Paddy O’Brien, the International Rugby Board’s (IRB) Manager of referees, has been scathing in his criticism of former All Blacks.
John Drake, Norm Hewitt and Steve McDowell have all been vocal in their belief that new laws have eliminated rucking from the game.
Speaking to New Zealand newspaper, The Sunday News, O’Brien firmly countered such a belief.
“It’s absolute nonsense that rucking is not allowed in the game. It is allowed,” said O’Brien.
“Trampling is not allowed and some of the comments I’ve read from New Zealand this week from former All Blacks have been a joke. You’d expect better from them.
“You have never been allowed to trample on players and you’ve always been allowed to ruck.
“Rucking is a motion of rucking on the ball, not on a players’ knee caps or ankles. We are standing by our zero tolerance to people being trampled on.
“Players need to get it out of their heads that they can trample over the top of someone.”
However there are concerns that this opens the way for fetchers to slow the game down too easily.
“If the referee gets that wrong I agree it does slow the game down and we will be putting pressure on referees to get that right.
“But players can’t trample on their opponents because what they do at that level reflects on the lower levels and if we get kids being stood all over we’re going to lose players from rugby. It’s all well and good for All Blacks who played 30 years ago to comment, but they didn’t have TV cameras in those days. It’s just not a good image for rugby.”
O’Brien also asserted that referees will not be allowed to jostle for World Cup positions by being whistle-happy.
“As long as I’m the referees’ manager that won’t be the case – because we expect referees to referee to the spirit of the law, not to the letter of the law.”