Our former elite official cringes at all the time wasted by water coming on

Secret Ref: Rugby water breaks are getting ridiculous

Earlier this year, World Rugby brought in law amendments for water carriers.

In the wake of Rassie Erasmus’s shenanigans as a waterboy, many asked the question: should rugby clamp down on coaches as water carriers? And it did, bringing in tweaks to enforce that “Water carriers cannot be a Director of Rugby or Head Coach” and that “Teams are permitted up to two dedicated water carriers.”

This included “a revised protocol for when medics and water-carriers, can access the field of play” which means “twice per half at points agreed with the match officials – this can only be during a stoppage in play or after a try has been scored.”

The aim of this trial, World Rugby stated at the time, was improve the flow of the game and reduce the opportunity for potential interference.

However, in reality, some feel that having what now feels like enforced water breaks now had the exact opposite effect, breaking up a game that many fans feel is in desperate need of having more flow.

So we asked our anonymous, former elite match official for their views on water-carriers…

Secret ref on rugby water breaks

ONE THING that always frustrated me as a referee was the army of water-carriers, who seem to invade the field at every opportunity. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about player safety and I understand the importance of hydration, but the real challenge was marshalling these guys on and off the field. It took up a lot of time and caused a huge amount of player and coach frustration.

The water-carriers (or even the physios) were used as a tactical weapon, deployed onto the field as a means of taking away the momentum of a team on the attack or even to slow down the game and delay the restart, in order to allow more time to rest and recover.

Even when they left the field, a bottle would ‘accidentally’ be left behind, causing a further delay or reason to slow up the game. Nothing happens by accident in professional rugby!

In a frustrating twist, water-carriers would also come onto the field with messages not only for the players but also for the official… They’d occasionally pass on a message from their boss telling the referee what the coach was thinking about their performance or issues they needed to fix!

World Rugby has tried to clampdown on this by introducing stricter protocols in July. Water-carriers can now only enter the field twice per half and this must be during a stoppage and with the permission of the officials. But this has led to designated water breaks in games, even when natural stoppages offer more than enough time to get hydrated, and still hampers the flow of matches.

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