Smith demands referees keep up with play
July 14, 2010
Wayne Smith putting spotlight on fitness of referees © Getty Images
Wayne Smith has called for referees to improve their fitness levels because of the increasing time the ball is in play. New Zealand's assistant coach believes the All Blacks are taking the game to a new level this year through their non-stop running style.
Smith raised the issue following the All Blacks' impressive opening win in this season's Tri-Nations, over champions South Africa last Saturday. He explained: "The ball in play is around 40 minutes in the Test matches this year because of the way we're playing.
"If you talk to our tight forwards, they'll talk about how the game has changed, markedly, because of the amount of running they have to do. Referees are going to need to make sure they're up there fitness-wise."
Smith's comments have placed the spotlight on two Irish referees, Alan Lewis, who took charge of the first match against the Springboks in Auckland, and Alain Rolland, who will look after Saturday's second game in Wellington. New Zealand are keen to keep the ball in play against a South African side who are strong at the set piece.
Last year, Smith started his crusade by advocating that two referees should be on the field to divide up elements of the game. This was followed up last week by head coach Graham Henry suggesting another idea in arguing that a further referee be on the sideline to be used on an interchange basis.
Smith added: "I think the game is going in the direction people want it to go in. There can't be too many complaints around from people watching the game at the moment. We just have to make sure that the fitness levels of everyone goes up so we can continue playing it."