Munro keeps eye out for potential 'player refs'
Former test referee Vinny Munro believes more top professional players could follow Glen Jackson into the international refereeing ranks.
Jackson, 37, made his test refereeing debut at Twickenham last Sunday in charge of England v Fiji - just 2 years after the former Bay of Plenty and Chiefs first five-eighth played his last professional game at the same ground in the English premiership final.
Munro saw it as part of his mission as the New Zealand Rugby Union's new high performance referee development manager to convince other top players to take up the whistle. He said it could be a potential pathway for a player forced to cut short their career through injury or those who retire and don't see a career in coaching.
"I hope it's not true but I'd love to see a guy like Colin Slade if he continued to be injured [and could no longer play], to say ‘what's the options' and think about taking up refereeing. Previously, it's just been coaching [that has attracted former players]."
Munro said players in certain positions might make ideal referees. He agreed halfbacks and first fives usually had a fair bit to say about refereeing decisions.
Front-row forwards might not be in much demand from refereeing recruiters but Munro said former Crusaders and All Blacks Leon MacDonald and Aaron Mauger, who were both now forging coaching careers, would have had the skills to adapt to refereeing.
"Guys don't finish their rep [playing] career in New Zealand, they go overseas and chase that dollar but then what do they do?
"Glen [Jackson] has certainly opened the awareness around [refereeing as a career option] - a recent player who's now a test referee as of Sunday.
"Part of my role will be to keep an ear and eye out and see who's not playing and the reasons why. And, maybe even get alongside the Players Association and use it as option."
Potential referees did not have to have been rugby rock stars, Munro said. A former player with senior club rugby experience would have the right background.
He also said a player who retired at 30 and took up refereeing would have time to progress to the test ranks. Life experience and maturity were an asset, Munro said.
A "27-year-old who's refereed for 10 years" generally had not played at a reasonable level and did not have the same feel for the game.
"That's the biggest challenge for us . . . the game understanding of young refs."
He said player knowledge of the rules also needed improving - even at Super rugby level.
"That's one of the Crusaders' strengths. They actually ask questions and they understand the law. It makes you more efficient, you know what you can and can't do."
He cited a Crusaders try against the Blues in Timaru last year as a classic example.
"The ball's sitting at the back of the ruck, Kieran Read came around from the Crusaders' [side], reached around and picked it up and ran 10m to put Zac Guildford in the corner. He understood the rules - the ball was out."
Former Crusader Andrew Mehrtens was "one player, who when he spoke to you, 99 per cent of the time was right on the law . . . That's probably why he was as good as he was."