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Lensbury Conference and what they talked about

No changes, only emphasis

The IRB's top referees and some top coaches from around the world met at the Lensbury Club at Teddington, London, last week for discussions on the application of the Laws of the Game.

There were no "new" laws promulgated as law changes occur really only after each Rugby World Cup. But there were certain aspects of law emphasised.

The conference lasted a day and a half. Those present were told that only ten referees would referee at the 2007 Rugby World Cup's final tournament, not 16 as in 2003. The ten would be those regarded as the ten best referees in the world.

The "spear tackle" was discussed at length in the wake of the upset that followed the injury to Brian O'Driscoll in the first Test between the Lions and New Zealand.

That action was used as an example and also a tackle by Sam Tuitupou this year, but there were not many examples of a spear tackle available, suggesting that it was not prevalent. But it was agreed that such a tackle was unacceptable and should receive either a yellow or a red card.

Scrummaging was discussed as an exercise in taking referees through what should be done and not done and how it should be refereed and managed.

The question of the receiver at a line-out received much attention. There was no need for either team to have a receiver but if they did have one then he should be clearly identifiable and in a position a visible distance from the line-out. If he was not a visible distance from the players in the line-out he was to be considered as a player in the line-out and then the matter of numbers became relevant.

At the tackle, presented by Wallaby coach Eddie Jones, four aspects were emphasised – first of all the onus on the tackler to comply, secondly the arrival of joining players on their feet, thirdly the contentious matter of the clean-out and thirdly the presence of "pillars".

Players arriving at the tackle/ruck were required to stay on their feet – planes taking off, not planes landing. Syd Millar, the chairman of the IRB, said that the game did not want exocet missiles landing at tackle time.

Once there was a ruck, the arriving players were to play the ruck. They were not to play people not in the ruck under the pretext of cleaning out. They were to play at the ruck and do so in the correct fashion.

The pillars referred to are the detached players at a ruck. By law they are required to be on-side, i.e. behind the last foot of the last player on their side. The presence of pillars – off-side and obstruction – still needs to be refereed.

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