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Venter pleads for consistency

Saracens boss Brendan Venter has pleaded with rugby's global authorities to seize the new international directives on refereeing and let the game flourish.

South African Venter, director of rugby at Saracens, made his views known as teams from across Europe prepare for the new Heineken Cup campaign, which starts in two weeks and will see officials from different countries applying the laws in their own way.

Venter said that the Aviva Premiership officials, under the direction of Head of Elite Referees Ed Morrison and his team at Twickenham, which includes other former international officials, are doing a 'brilliant' job in England. But he fears the interpretations of the rules by national officials across Europe will be so varied that clubs will not know where they are during the Heineken Cup.

Venter said: "The biggest challenge to me is the practical challenge. The Premiership, Top 14 and Magners League - all are refereed differently.

"The IRB came out and said 'here are the directives' which they sent to New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and everywhere else. The crucial thing is how are you going to get this right? Remember we have planned the whole pre-season around these directives.

"Ed (Morrison) has got all these people working for him and we still struggle with consistency in a brilliant environment in England.

"Give credit to Ed and how hard they are working on it. The referees put in hours analysing their own performances - that is brilliant. You cannot criticise them.

"Now I'm asking do we have this kind of process, which without a doubt we can't have, within ERC? All this money spent and everyone is so excited but we have this one variable.

"You can ask anyone - ask Jim Mallinder (Northampton director of rugby) how big a variable the referee is today. He is going to say 'an unbelievable variable'. You ask me what I think, and I say 'unbelievable'.

"It is less than perfect, it could be a disaster. These directives were brought in to make rugby a better game to watch - full stop. This is a potential problem because the game is played so differently in the different places."

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