It’s time for rugby to stamp out backchat

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    The Chiefs and Hurricanes game on Friday night was a cracker, as was the Lions and Crusaders match its own way – but unfortunately both were marred by continuous backchat to the refs.

    On Friday night TJ Perenara was the chief offender. He frequently disagreed with the referee and in petulant terms. Every time Perenara thought a decision had gone against his team, he argued with the referee. What’s worse, his body language was confrontational and disrespectful.

    In the second half, he took a dive when he and an opponent were running for the ball. The opponent had not done anything to deserve a penalty, yet Perenara exaggerated his fall and rose with his arms outspread, yelling at the referee for a penalty.

    In the Lions match, the referee went to the television match official to check suspected foul play by the Lions. A Lions player was heard clearly to say to the referee, “You only go to the TMO against us, not against them”. If that is not an allegation of cheating, I do not know what is.

    Arguing with the referee, contradicting him, taking dives, calling for unwarranted penalties and alleging bias is against the spirit of the game. If you wish to do those sorts of things, there are other football codes which would seem to allow it. Rugby never did that, nor should it now.

    The simple answer is to require the referees to enforce the law. I am an avid rugby watcher, and not once in the last two seasons have I seen a penalty for backchat, turning a free kick into a penalty kick or marching ten metres.

    You will recall that four years ago Wayne Barnes sent Dylan Hartley off in a premiership final for calling Barnes a cheat. Rightly so.

    I do not necessarily blame Perenara or the Lions player. If they can get away with it, why stop? It is appallingly dumb rugby to aggravate a ref, but if that’s their mentality, so be it.

    I blame the referees and the referee coaches and assessors for allowing this state of affairs to exist in our game. If it were not tolerated, you could imagine what steps coaches would take to ensure that their players did not indulge in it.

    A proper application of the laws would eradicate this problem within three weeks.

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