I was looking through all the ref signals in the IRB Laws again and found that some of them are extremely similar – to the point that you’d be hard pushed to tell what on earth he was indicating – although only of course if one of you knew the full set!


Not too much of a problem in the professional game as the ref is now miked up.


But for the stuff that passes for rugby amongst us normal blokes (as in under 14 stone and taking over half a minute for the 100 yards) it could be quite confusing if you ever came across a ref who’d actually had a butchers at the Laws.

To give you an example – the sign for a penalty, a try and a penalty try are the same – not too much of a problem if there is an obvious offence or if the ball looks like it might have been carried over the goal line. However the same sign is also applicable when the ref wants a physio to come onto the field. I don’t suppose it matters too much since the medical team, water carriers and furry mascots appear to wander in and out of the game whenever they feel like it these days. But it might be a bit of a problem if the ref is calling urgently for a physio and the bloke is having a quick drag assuming that the bastard has just given the opposing team a penalty. This assumes of course that you have someone who actually knows how to sort out a dislocated collar bone or remove a splinter.


At Askeans we were lucky enough to have the ‘Cortisone Kid’ (see earlier posts) who was qualified not just to stick on a plaster but could, at a pinch, administer open heart surgery – he could even set broken bones or stitch you up whilst still watching the game out of the corner of one eye. The changing room often looked like something out of M*A*S*H and as an army doctor (and colonel) he’d probably actually worked in one.

He was needed of course since in those days (before electricity and running water) you didn’t have subs (except to pay for the beer and match fee) so it was pretty important to have someone to put you back together – at least enough to finish the game – then of course you were off to the local A & E.

To be honest in most games  I imagine shouting out “is anyone here a doctor” probably works a bit better than appearing to signal a penalty and hoping that the only other person in the world who has read the laws and is medically trained happens to be on the touchline.