First Experience of 15s

Dipping my toes in the water

How lucky am I? After a fantastic summer with some excellent referees a a number of 7s tournaments, I was lucky enough today to be able to attend a 15s match with a very experienced and amazingly helpful referee. He took the time to walk me through pretty much everything that he does on a match day from arriving in the car park to getting back in the car at the end of the day. For someone like me who has never played the game and never been a referee this is invaluable. Some of the key lessons that I learned are below.


Before you even start, make sure you look the part. Dress smartly and from the moment you get out of the car remember that you are the match official and act that way. Be confident, positive and clear. Your goal is that anyone sees you instantly knows you are the referee.

The first thing to do is find your changing room. Don’t wander around looking lost, find someone, tell them who you are and what you need. If they are not the home captain, then ask where the captain is.

Once you’re changed its time to start your relationship with the captains. Find the home captain who is going to be out with their team on the pitch or in the changing room. The following discussion points apply to both captains:

  • Are there any issues you need to know about concerning the team?
  • Do they have 15 players?
  • Do they have a trained and experienced front row? Are they all over 18 (for a senior game)? Are there front row alternatives (note these may be starting players who are not in the front row rather than subs).
  • When would they like the boot check and pre-match briefing?
  • Are they going to the changing rooms before the match start? If so you will knock at 5 minutes and expect them on the pitch 2 minutes before the start time. Remind them what the start time is!

I have put a separate post on the pre-match briefing here.

On the pitch

Running Lines

The running lines between phase of play are still a mystery to me. In this particular case I was told I was running in a straight line from breakdown to breakdown. I need to get some help with this and will post on this site when I get some clarity.

One referee did comment to me recently that every coach and assessor has a different view on what the right position and running lines are.

Keeping the Break Down tidy

I still need to work on my mental checklist at the break down. In particular at lower levels the break down is pretty fiercely competed most of the time. At higher levels it is more usual for the defenders to stay away and form their defensive line rather than compete for the ball while it is in the ruck.

My checklist:

  1. Identify the tackler and tackled player.
  2. Has the tackler released the tackled player?
  3. Has the tackler moved away?
  4. Has the tackler played the ball before a ruck is formed?
  5. Has the tackled player made the ball available?
  6. Where is the gate?
  7. Are arriving players coming through the gate?
  8. Are players joining the ruck ahead of the rear foot?
  9. Are players attempting to stay on their feet?
  10. Watch for hands in the ruck?
  11. All set? Start to give yourslef some space and watch the defense ofr offside.

It all sounds so simple, but far more practice needed to make this checklist a reality. Right now, it’s untidy far too much of the time.


I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but once again the feedback that I was given today was to work on my confidence and whistle tone. The referee that I was working with today and ┬ásaid two really interesting things about this. He said that an assessor should be able to work out what is going on on the pitch just by listening to the whistle. Being able to tell between the tone for a scrum and the far stronger tone for a penalty.

He also gave me an example of where my tone had actually confused the players. I had given a penalty for a tackler not releasing and blew the whistle. The tone was too gentle and all the players assumed it was a scrum and started to come together to form up! As he said – the penalty whistle should be clear and loud enough to send the backs scuttling 10m away ready for a quick penalty. Definitely an area to work on.



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