Rugby, a sport revered for its intense physicality and strategic depth, also hinges on the pivotal role of referees. These custodians of the game ensure fair play, safety, and adherence to the laws that govern the sport. However, the path to becoming a world-class referee is one laden with challenges, scrutiny, and the need for continuous learning. In this blog, we delve into the cues that rugby referees rely on to make split-second decisions and discuss how supporting and growing the refereeing community can contribute to the betterment of rugby as a whole.

Understanding the Pressure on Rugby Referees: Referees are under immense pressure to perform. They must make instantaneous decisions that can alter the course of the game, often under the watchful eyes of passionate fans and critical media. As highlighted in the Rugby Bricks Podcast Episode 62 with Ben O'Keeffe, referees face scrutiny from coaches, the public, and the media both pre and post-games. Their performance is rigorously reviewed by the refereeing committee, adding to the pressure of the role.

Refereeing Cues and Decision-Making: Referees rely on a set of cues to navigate the fast-paced environment of a rugby match. These cues include player positions, the nature of tackles, and the flow of the game. For instance, the controversial decision to issue a red card to Marika Koroibete versus France demonstrates the gravity of such calls and the importance of getting them right. Referees must constantly update their knowledge of the laws, particularly with the introduction of new rules focused on player safety.

Communication: The Referee's Tool: Effective communication is paramount for referees. As Ben O'Keeffe mentions in Rugby Bricks Podcast Episode 7, it's crucial for referees to convey their decisions clearly and manage the players' expectations on the field. This ensures that players and coaches understand the reasoning behind calls, fostering a cooperative environment.

Supporting Referee Development: Investing in referee development is essential for the growth of rugby. This includes providing training resources, mentorship programs, and opportunities for referees to gain experience at various levels of competition. Organizations like Rugby Bricks play a vital role in offering educational content, such as podcasts and interviews with experienced referees, which can serve as valuable learning tools for aspiring officials.

Growing the Refereeing Community: To attract and retain referees, it's important to create a supportive culture that values their contribution to the game. Initiatives like referee associations, recognition programs, and social enterprises such as oDocs, founded by Ben O'Keeffe, can enhance the sense of community and purpose among referees.



Referees are the backbone of rugby, ensuring the spirit and integrity of the game are upheld. By understanding the cues referees use, supporting their development, and fostering a community that appreciates their role, we can help make rugby better for all involved. Whether you're a player, coach, or fan, remember that referees are there to facilitate a fair and enjoyable experience for everyone. Let's support and grow the refereeing community together, for the love of the game.

Peter Breen