ABs: ‘Refs must get fitter’

All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith believes referees need to bring their fitness up to speed if they want to keep up with the frenetic pace of Test rugby.

The comment was made on the back of Alan Lewis’s performance in the match between the All Blacks and the Springboks. Lewis battled to keep up with the play, and as a result missed several incidents that may have resulted in penalties to either side.

Smith stressed that his comment is no personal attack on Lewis, but he does feel that officials the world over need to lift their standard.

‘Just like the players – get fitter,’ he told the New Zealand Herald. ‘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.’

The change to the laws in 2010 favour the attacking team, and Smith said rugby has benefited from the change in mindset. But the Blacks’ backline mentor added that referees need to up their fitness levels if top teams are going to enjoy those benefits.

‘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.’

Alain Rolland will referee this Saturday’s Test in Wellington.