ninetyninecall – HCup:2011: Referee analysis

27 03 2011

Everyone knows the referee can be the single most influential participant in a rugby match. All to often the focus of analysis is on the players and teams, but the analysis of the referee should also be taken into account for every game. Last week saw the announcement of the referee’s to officiate in the Heineken Cup quarter finals, Nigel Owens, Romain Poite, Allain Rolland and Wayne Barnes will do the honors in a fortnight’s time. But what has their previous record been in Heineken Cup history?

Romain Poite will referee Ulster’s clash with Northampton Saints. The match is Ulster’s first in the knockout stages since they won the competition in 1999. It is also Poite’s first ever knockout stage assignment.Poite is top of the table for average number of cards per game, This season he has handed out on average 2.75 cards per game which is more double the amount of the next closest referee. Surprised by the high number, I decided to go back over the last three seasons and check the stats… He still comes out on top of the table with 1.6 cards per game over 15 games! The one thing you can say in Poites favor is that he is impartial, handed out the same amount of cards to both the home and away teams!

Wayne Barnes of England will referee the final quarter-final between Biarritz Olympique and defending champions Toulouse at Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastian, the second match on the Sunday.Analysis of Wayne’s carding habits show something even more interesting, a definite bias towards to the home team in each game, this season he has not awarded a single card against the home team, in the last three seasons he has awarded only 3 cards against the home team and 10 against the away team, Toulouse beware!

Irishman Alain Rolland has been given the contest between Perpignan and Toulon at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona in the early game on the Saturday of quarter-final weekend.Another referee that tends to favor the home team, clear divide between the number of cards against the home team (3) and cards against the away team (8) in the last 3 seasons.

Nigel Owens, Wales, will take charge of Leinster’s Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Leicester Tigers in Lansdowne road. The Welsh official was the referee for the last time Leinster and Leicester met in the Heineken Cup, the 2009 final at Murrayfield. It will be his fifth time officiating at the quarter-final stage of the Heineken Cup and his 54th Heineken Cup match. Nigel is the bottom of the table for average number of cards per game over the last 3 seasons, only 0.55.

I was quite surprised on two fronts when looking through the stats, what stood out for me was the large gap between Romain Poites number of cards per game and the home-team bias on display from Barnes and Rolland. Food for thought!

Analysis of the HCup QF Rugby Referee's performance

Stats were compiled from




3 responses

27 03 2011
Red Stag Rugby

An interesting read. Poite is a no nonsense referee who is actually very unpopular. He is aware of his lack of English IMO and uses his whislte rather than his voice to manage.

There is more to take into account than simply the amount of penalties and cards but who have they refereed. Last week I refereed a match in sunny conditions. Penalty count for whole game was 9. Teams wanted to play rugby. I had another match 5-6 weeks ago with several cards and about 25 penalties.

A lot depends on the teams too.

27 03 2011

Agreed on there is more to it than just penalty count… but that was the reason that I went back over three seasons instead of just focusing on 4 matches this season, (in case it was just a bad run of games for him) but he still has more than double the number of cards of any other referee over the last 3 seasons.

Nigel Owens is regarded as the best/most consistent referee in the world, his card-count is consistently low, seems quite a contrast.

27 03 2011
Red Stag Rugby

The reason is that Owens/Rolland etc uses their voice. They talk to players and they prevent offenses happening they don’t just wait and whistle. Poite lacks communication skills. He ain’t good at English. But he seems to know that and has his own way of doing things. He isn’t really that good a referee as the others but what you see is what you get.

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