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Rugby World Cup 2011
O'Brien: Refs must improve
ESPNscrum Staff
October 6, 2011
Referee Nigel Owens reads the riot act, Samoa v South Africa, Rugby World Cup, North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand, September 30, 2011
Referee Nigel Owens was criticised by Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu following Samoa's defeat to South Africa in the pool stages © Getty Images
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Referees need to improve their performances for the knock-out stages of the Rugby World Cup, according to their boss Paddy O'Brien.

The International Rugby Board referees manager has been satisfied with their displays so far, describing them overall as seven and a half out of ten, but wants to see an improvement for the latter stages of the tournament, when the pressure and competition will be far higher.

"I would give them seven-and-a-half to eight with an arrow going upwards," he said. "We are never going to reach 10 because the nature of the game doesn't allow us to but I want to see us get to at least nine come quarter-finals onwards.

"Of course there have been some errors, and we have addressed them with the referees. You are not going to have no errors in 40 games of rugby, but as an overall package I am delighted with the refereeing.

"We can get better and hopefully come the last eight matches, which are hugely important, the accuracy will be paramount."

Wayne Barnes' decision not to refer a kick at goal from James Hook to the television match official during Wales' defeat to South Africa was among the most controversial calls in the opening stages of the competition. While Welsh referee Nigel Owens was the target of criticism from Samoa centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu following their defeat to the Springboks.

O'Brien, though, has been pleased with the way his officials have refereed games and picked out the scrum and offsides as areas of particular importance.

"I think the scrummaging during the tournament so far has not been a key part of the World Cup," he said. "I mean there have been some issues with some teams, but I suppose (a feeling going) into the tournament was that the scrums might dominate but they haven't.

"I just think that the willingness of all teams to participate within the laws of the game has been a feature and that has been a standout for me. We have seen players certainly buy into offside around the fringes. We think there has been a huge improvement there."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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