An easy way to make the right first impression on a team and it’s Captain, and to set out your stall early in terms of priorities is the players briefing.
The briefing is a key part of the pre-match routine that you will go through. My thoughts on the whole pre-match routine are given in THIS POST
When to do the Briefing
Agree with the captains of each team when you are going to do the briefing. Most of the time the players will be out warming up. At the level that I referee at (low!) most captains will just say that they are happy to do the briefing there and then and will call the players in for a boot check and briefing.
The Briefing Itself
I tend not to do the briefing to the whole team (hence on the field is easier then wedged into a changing room). You only need to brief the 10, 9, front row and captain. Ask for substitutes for all of these positions to join the briefing.
“This is straight forward fellas. I don’t expect to have much to do with you today. Keep the 5m and 10m distances for me, make sure your backs are set from your position, and we’ll be happy for the whole game. I will signal with my arm up at the line-out if a maul is formed and you need to stay back. Understood? Thanks you can go”
“Please put the ball into the scrum straight. Remember to stay onside at the scrum. Let’s get the ball in as soon as it is steady. If you’re not sure whether it is steady or not, listen to me. If I am still talking to the players then I am not happy it is steady.”
“I’ll protect you at the scrum and breakdown. Until you have clearly lifted the ball off the ground the ball is still in. Captain – please tell your players this is how I will referee the breakdown.”
“I’m happy for you to take quick free kicks and penalties, just make sure you are behind the mark and I can see you please”
“Understood? Thanks you can go.”
The Front Row
“If you bind properly, keep level backs and push straight in the scrum then we will have a straight forward match today. As you know I will control the scrum using Crouch-Bind-Set. I will do this at a pace to match what I can see happening, please wait for each stage. Before the set I would like you ear to ear, not shoulder to shoulder please, that way you will have a gap to set in to.”
To the player who is first-player in the lineout: “I will mark both sides of the lineout. Please set from that mark and keep a metre gap between the lines.”
“Is that all understood? Thank you”
I would normally walk away from the other players to brief the Captain – this gives a clear signal that I am forming a different relationship with him. I would also talk to him using his name throughout the briefing and the match for the same reason.
“I’m responsible for one thing. You’re responsible for one. And there is one thing we are jointly responsible for one.”
“I’m responsible for the safety of the players. You’re responsible for your team’s discipline. We’re both responsible for getting everyone into the clubhouse having had an enjoyable match.”
“We need to work together. I am happy to speak with you whenever the ball is dead. I don’t want to have a discussion while the ball is in play, nor do I want to have multiple discussions with other players. If you have concerns about the other team or questions about any aspect of play, please come and discuss it.”
“Do you understand? Thank you.”
And repeat for the other team.
Note: If there is a physio/medic for a team I will also tell them that they can come on to the pitch to assist a player without asking me, and that I will ensure that they are safe at all times, stopping play if it looks like it may endanger them or an injured player.