Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Let Jackson learn from tough test

Glen Jackson - pic © Al Ross
Glen Jackson - pic © Al Ross

Scotland’s Six Nations loss to Wales is available to view on the BBC iPlayer at the moment. You might want to watch the whole thing again – I just did and without the tartan blinkers on, it still stood up as a pulsating game of test rugby.

The episode which has lodged in my brain though, is only four or five seconds long and didn’t even happen during the match. It’s the moment after the final whistle when the cameraman zooms in on Glen Jackson’s face.

Jackson, who played top flight rugby in both hemispheres before rising through the refereeing ranks, hangs his head disconsolately as he trudges off the pitch. Sunday was his first Six Nations match. There was some speculation in Monday’s press that it may be his last. I wonder if the man himself thinks it might be, too. He’d had a ‘mare, and the body language said he knew he’d blown it.

The New Zealander’s performance has been universally panned. Vern Cotter felt he should have been stricter on Welsh indiscipline during the game’s frenetic closing stages. The massed ranks of Scottish rugby followers – pundits, ex-players and supporters – used social media to highlight a catalogue of errors which supposedly cost us the game, although how Jackson made Scotland bodge three clear overlaps is a mystery. Then Warren Gatland helpfully chimed in to suggest Finn Russell should have got red instead of yellow for his rash challenge on Dan Biggar.

Cheers Warren.

Everyone had a word for Glen Jackson and none of them good. Looking at that post-whistle footage, however, I felt enormous pity for the guy. So before Scotland runs out of high horses for us to jump on, perhaps we should take a look at things from a different perspective?

Refereeing an international rugby match is nigh-on impossible. Both sides cheat constantly. A test referee has to decide which penalties influence the outcome of a phase of play and which ones don’t. Attacking players can usually go off their feet at a ruck with impunity; the offside line is notoriously elastic; on Sunday Jonathan Davies running ahead of the ball carrier in the build-up to Wales’ first try was deemed (probably rightly) to be irrelevant. Turning a blind eye to some offences is necessary if the game is going to have any kind of flow. The best referees are the ones who can bring some semblance of fairness and consistency to their decision-making amid the blood, sweat and chaos.

For the last 20 minutes of Sunday’s game, in particular, Glen Jackson was a man under the most intense pressure. He had players from both sides jabbering constantly in his ear about infringements, real or imagined. A capacity crowd (evenly matched) in full cry. A touch judge whose name is George Clancy. His self-confidence would surely have been tested by a sequence of big calls, including two yellow cards, a disallowed try and, on the stroke of half-time, a margin call on whether to award a score. He made mistakes. Who, in all honestly, wouldn’t?

Mr Jackson did not have a good game on Sunday. I’m willing to bet, however, that he learned more about test match refereeing in those 80 minutes than the rest of us ever will. To quote CS Lewis: “Experience can be the most brutal teacher but by God you learn.”

I hope Glen Jackson gets a chance to progress. I hope, if he gets another game where Scotland are on the field, we’re big enough to treat him with respect; accept that anyone can have an off day and recognise that the Murrayfield experience could be a tough but necessary stage in the making of a top-class referee.

Heaven knows we need them.


Follow Alan Greenwood on twitter @agreenwoodesq

48 Responses

  1. Look, I’m sure he is a nice guy and I agree if we have him again we should respect him but in all honesty he shouldn’t be given a top level test match for a while. It was probably the worst referee performance I’ve ever seen at test level – not just one controversial incident but a string of inexplicable mistakes. When George Clancy is forced to intervene because you’re screwing things up you know it has got pretty bad.

  2. I don’t disagree with what you’re saying as such. I think in general rugby fans are a pretty forgiving bunch and would let one or two calls slide. However, we’re not talking about one or two incidents – we’re talking about a variety of indiscretions or missed infringements over 80 minutes. Whether they had an affect on the outcome of the match or not, and in this case they very well could have, then he deserves the scrutiny.

    The fact he’s a former player at a high level, and indeed he only hung his boots up a few years ago, surely means he should be able to control and relate to the players as well as keep his head in such high pressure situations?

    Also, is it not damning that effectively his bosses have highlighted one of his mistake by citing Russell? They appear to have decreed that a red card would have been more appropriate, yet Jackson only issued a yellow.

  3. My own feeling is that he allowed himself to be influenced by welsh players having his ear. It may have been subconscious but he definitely showed alot of bias and needs to be taken to task over that. Referees have an incredibly difficult job and I normally support their efforts but I think the SRU need to insist that we don’t have this guy again.

  4. Do any readers know if the SRU have the right to insist that he does not referee future games involving Scotland?

  5. Neil. I’ll answer your question:


    And the reason for my ‘no’ is quite simple. We have no Scottish referees at this level and, until we do, we are rather in a bit of a pickle. I was really brassed off with Jackson and also very disappointed – I had hopes that with a Kiwi referee we would get an even shot. However, just as history will forget the details (if not the result) so should we move on. If we refuse to have Jackson, who do we accept? Clancy? Joubert? – he who it was who was serially duped by the cheating Welsh front row who consistently held their engage to give the impression the Scots had gone early. Even Nigel Owens has had one or two howlers – even recently. Who knows, maybe Alan Greenwood is right, Jackson may learn a lot more than any of us. I say, give him a second chance, even with us. We are not all fire and brimstone ‘wee Frees’.

  6. Did watch it back and thought that we could have kicked for the posts more. Pushing on a ref who was under pressure things were always going to be a gamble but then thats retrospect. Missed opportunity regardless of ref of course but thats been and said already.

    I disagree on your point though on taking it out on the team for missing overlaps. Not in the sense that it wast relevant, far from it but i dont want to see people attacking our team /players the way Visser took heat the previous week. Plenty been said about Scotlands squandered chances…. The Finn siting dragged up Jackson again on its own. I dont agree on letting the game flow with “clear offences” and watching lots of Jackson he (apart from Sunday) generally blows up quick. Clearly communicates to players what he will and wont tollerate….then if they dont yellow it is (again alart from Sunday).

    I do feel sorry for him in the sense that he is human and we all err. A level of consistency would have been acceptable, we dient get that though and he made that rod for his own back sadly with silent threats of yellow cards that didnt materlialise. Having Clancy i thought maybe added a silent pressure on the sideline.

    Watching it back one area that was badly of IMO was the breakdown and often very different interpretations for the same thing. Watched him referee a lot in the past and tends to be sharp with the whistle. I am not sure but thought he “tried” to let the game flow more rather than sticking to his usual style.

    Scotland need a representative at this level and crticislly need wins to take mindshare. Marginsl calls will start to go our way i believe then. Glen will be back, hope under his own style not someone elses.

  7. I have no sympathy as he is a professional and gets paid to do a job. He ballsed it up and I hope he does learn from it but no, no sympathy.

  8. I am sympathetic to Glen Jackson. It for unfortunate for him that the camera focussed on him at the end of the match; as his expression was quite telling. He was very relieved that it was all over, whatever the reasons might have been.
    I agree with your article in that ‘professional sides constsntly cheat and the ref has to decide which penalties most influenced the outcome of a phase of play’. It is a ludicrous situation that the ref has to chosse which of 10 penalties was the most influential.

    I’ve watched Jackson before and he does tend to let the game flow well. Even if we don’t agree with some of his decisions at the weekend, and he made a few blunders, he is a decent man and refereedeserves a second chance.

    I was more concerned that Clancy made some of the critical decisions, and I certainly don’t trust trust his judgement.

    1. Agree with your comment about Clancy. You wouldn’t want him reffing any scottish side. There is a long standing feeling that games are sometimes reffed to an ” expected ” result. The higher ranked team seem to get more of their fair share of 50:50 calls. Whether this simply reflects the fact they are actually better or some sort of sub- conscious bias is impossible to know. The best thing Scotland can do is start winning these close games. Glasgow have shown what is possible and have now earned respect of opposition and refs.

    2. Agreed. From what SuperRugby and Rugby Championship games he’s ref’d he’s always been very good and impartial. Referees, like players, can have an off day.

      We can’t blame someone else for our own failings. The Welsh jumped higher, kicked better and “managed” the breakdown better.

  9. I asked this in another thread but don’t believe I got a response. Was it not Clancy that got Jackson to review the video of the welsh “try” after he had already awarded it and this in turn led to him changing the decision?

    1. I believe that was the case. I remember jonathan Davies commenting that he should not dissalow the try as he already awarded it. However he then decided to dissalow it- I have no idea if that is in the rule book.

    2. Aye, Jackson awarded the try only for Clancy to pull it back for the obstruction. Jonathan Davies thus got very confused about whether he was allowed to do it and then admitted it was the right decision.

    3. I am pretty sure that once a referee has made any decision he is not allowed to change it even if he thinks he made the wrong one. What I find strange is that he didn’t check with his touchie to see if he had any input BEFORE awarding the try which to me would be the normal procedure. It also have permitted Clancey to make his recommendation to review the tape or to straight disallow it if Clancey was clear on the obstruction

      Having said that, in the SH it is more about getting to the right decision in the end with how you get there not being so important

      1. Yeah but I think the problem is he didn’t see any reason to not award the try. I’m not sure of his positioning but his view of the obstruction could have been blocked by a player, ruck, etc. A similar thing happened in the England Wales game too I think?

        I think there’s a danger we end up having a situation where all tries are referred to the TMO to check for infringements. In my eyes, it was good communication between the Clancy and Jackson to pull it up and ultimately, the final decision was correct. I think it’s become more of a talking point because the overall refereeing performance was so poor.

        I guess it’s a grey area, how much involvement does the TMO have? Should he only pipe up if asked by the ref? Or, do we say that because has access to immediate replays he/she should alert the ref to situations immediately – whether infringements in the lead up to tries, off the ball incidents etc.

        As you say, in the SH it appears to be more of the latter and for me, if you’ve got 30 guys charging around the field at full tilt, you can’t expect the ref to see everything and thus, he needs the support of a strong TMO.

      2. The TMO absolutely can’t volunteer info unless specifically asked to review something by the ref. Unless of course it is a South African TMO in Nelspruit 2 years ago going “shall I look at ….” “do you want me to look at …..? shall I can I please let me ”

        The policy should be and I am pretty sure is, Ref checks with Touchy if he is near then decides either to award or to go upstairs. for some reason Jackson jumped straight to award because he wasn’t aware of the obstruction so didn’t think there was anything to ask the touchy about. In league at least in Oz the ref looks at both touchies for the all clear and I think there is a dead ball ref as well now and then if they all say ok he awards the try and he does this every time.

      3. Cool, I honestly have to hold my hands up and say I didn’t know that. I thought the TMO could jump in if he’d spotted something the ref hadn’t.

        Then the fact Clancy piped up in Jackson’s ear is just another potential nail in the guys coffin surely? He’s already been proven to have called the Russell card wrong (in the eyes of the citing commission anyway) and now this. Oh dear!

      4. Unless the role has changed in the last couple of years

        The touchies, sorry “assistant referees” can butt in if they see something they think the ref hasn’t but the video ref is only there to play a role if called upon to specifically review something by the ref

        I do feel for Jackson because he gets nothing but plaudits down here. Maybe he just suits the type of rugby played in the SH and wasn’t ready for a full on 6 Nations game

        I am sure he will not be happy with his game. Let’s face it I have always been willing to help every ref out with advice but have never desired to take their place

      5. Ah ok, good to know. Cheers for that.

        In that case, I really have no problem with the video ref jumping in to highlight something but I can see how it may undermine the on pitch ref’s authority.

        I do agree, now the dust has settled a little bit whilst still gutted by the outcome – I do feel a bit of sympathy for Jackson. Yeah, he totally cocked up a host of decisions but as you rightly say, he’s got to be unhappy with his performance. I believe he’s refereed in rugby championship games before? So yeah, maybe the intensity, pace of the game or simply the style was too much for him – although his playing time with Sarrie’s would have schooled him in that you would’ve thought.

        Anyway, nothing to be done about it now. Let’s see how we go with the appeal for Russell…

  10. Please dont completely shoot me down on this one but read on. Given the complexities or refereeing why not just have a virtual refereee from the sidelines. With HDTV as good as it is, it is possible to keep up with the action in the way a referee cant. The ref could be sitting in an arm chair insted or running about the field like crazy and would get a far better view of what is going on, provided that all angles could be covered. Sure, there would still be subjectivity but I think more informed choices could be made. Ask youself this- could you honestly run like crazy and make decisions at the same time- I doubt it. Anyway, its just a thought but let me know what you think.

  11. Have read the article and the comments so far. Sadly, I have little or no sympathy for Glen Jackson and never want to see hm near a Scotland game again. Quite simply, he has the tools at his disposal as a referee with which to establish degree and discipline on the field and he refused to use them. Example…how many “no more penalties or it’s a card” did we hear in the last 10 or 15 minutes, If you threaten the card you produce it, otherwise the team concerned don’t take you seriously.

    If players are chattering in his ear – he can insist they stop and if they don’t he can both penalise and/or card them. “This is not soccer” and he has the right to be respected on the field and the means to ensure he is.

    As for Scotland not converting chances, clear cut chances come rarely in the game and it seemed that even when we did – or got close to doing so – Jackson chose to ignore the laws of the game and overturned our scores. Bennet’s try WAS a try, the ball did not go forward. Let’s just for a second suppose that it did, Jackson then took the game back for a high tackle on SCH five yards out. Law 10.2 is quite clear on this, it should have been a penalty try and a yellow card awarded. The sanction is there – Jackson did not need to take the responsibility of actually making a decision, it was already prescribed. But he chose not to. Whether he bottled it, or judged that SCH would not have scored had he not been tackled, we won’t know, but the fact that he awarded a penalty suggests that he judged foul play had taken place.

    Then there was Laidlaw’s effort at half time. I’m not saying it was a try, but there was nothing to be lost and everything to be gained by asking the TMO to have a look. Then, let’s not go near the Finn Russell incident – Gregor has it correct there. Worse still was his “let’s even things up” approach to the Davies Yellow. Neither were yellow cards. Gregor has called FR’s card correctly and Davies and Beattie were in the air together.

    The real culprits here are World Rugby. They should never have appointed him in the first place. They should now ‘demote’ him and send him off for rehabilitation. Appointing refs that are below the calibre required seriously impacts on respect in the game.

  12. To follow up on my previous comment,having someone refereee from an armchair by watchin live TV footage would mean that the prson could not be influences by players barking orders to him or by an angry set of passiopnate supporters. He could watch the game in complete silence and blow the whistle at appropriate times. a much better way to referee the game in my opinion but it would have to be tested first.

    Regardding jackson, perhaps he just had a bad day at the office (we all have them) but I would not allow him to referee in a high profile match again. I would insist that he spends some time reffereeing at club level before being propoerly assessedd and perhaps moving to internationals. He just wasnt good at all.

    1. Okay Neil well this demonstrates your understanding of what a referee actually does. You seem to believe that all they do is blow their whistle when there is an infringement. As a qualified referee I can tell you that there is a hell of a lot more to it than that. It is important to remember that the referee is also known as the “game manager” and their communication with the players is vital for keeping the game flowing. They should be constantly talking to the players telling them what is good, what is not, trying to avoid penalties where possible – considering the sport wants to be more free-flowing the refs play a crucial role in allowing this. A silent ref would be completely useless. You would struggle if you had a referee sitting off the pitch and someone sort of controlling it on. The best someone off the field can do is act like an advisor, something we already have in the TMO.

      Neil you may argue that because he had a poor game he should be completely dropped, however, the reason for why he was there in the first place was because he has demonstrated that he is a good referee (remember that he has already done international matches, it was just his first 6 Nations. To be honest Neil it would be quite interesting seeing you do a refereeing course – it is much harder than you may think it is watching in your armchair at home…

      1. But I do still agree that Jackson was poor and failed under pressure about a number of key decisions, I just feel that your “radical” proposals to shake up refereeing would never possibly work.

      2. Interesting post Ruairidh – Jackson’s biggest failure was seemingly that he failed to manage the game as you explain it. He didn’t follow through on YC warnings, allowed players to indulge in cynical professional fouls and clearly lost his head when not referring to the TMO on two important occasions. I expect this was the pressure that came from the players, he was heard telling players to get out of his ear but didn’t have the authority to put them in their place. I’m sure refs get this with experience but it seems he has suffered from the decision to fast track him – it is only 4 years since he began refereeing. Maybe he just needs to serve his apprenticeship a little longer before getting the highest profile matches.

      3. Fair point. S a compromise is probably best. The main referee watches the game on TV or a series of TV’s to show different angles. He makes all of the key decisions wrt reffing the game. However, he has an assistant on the field wo will translate any decisions he makes. That person will just be the messenger so he cannot b influenced by players, crowd etc- what do you think of that possibility? We would have probably won the game against Wales if that philosophy had been adopted, I fully understand how hard their job is- running up and down and making decisions at the same time with the crowd and players on your back. This way, decisions would be made more independents and the it would be more difficult for the Welsh to win games.

      4. Robots as refs- well probably not practical at present but why not in the future. a robot cannot be manipulated by players or the crowd and, by definition is neutral. However, I’m sure that the Welsh would still try to manipulate the thing. Lets face it, a robot could not have done much worse that Jackson did.

  13. Regarding Clancy being upstairs, it’s a difficult one, at what point does the TMO get involved? He was correct to intervene with the Welsh try but in my mind, should have also got involved with the Scottish incidents at the end of each half – at least to clarify and back up that Jackson was right/wrong to award/not award a try.

    We’ve seen it before where ref’s go to the TMO, the footage is put up on the big screen in the ground and the ref then makes a decision before the TMO can give their verdict. Could Clancy not have given him a gentle nudge by saying “we should look at this again…” and then putting it up? I’m not saying that’s correct, but could have perhaps given Jackson a bit of a boost or support.

    I guess, conversely, he has to be left to ref the game and if Clancy were to jump in regularly then it dilutes Jackson’s influence and would lead to accusation’s against Clancy interfering. Had the game not involved Scotland, I would probably feel a bit of sympathy toward him as he’s been utterly crucified in all corners, however I do have the blinkers on.

    Anyway, I’d take Jackson out the firing line for a while, let him run touch or TMO matches. I think we need to be careful, as I’ve said before it’s great a former pro-player has got involved in refereeing and lambasting so much is only going to serve to put others off going down this path in the future.

  14. Hi, Alan here, thanks for the feedback on the article which I’ve been reading with interest.

    I think if Jackson is stood down for a while it won’t be because of any ‘crimes’ against Scotland. It’ll be because he didn’t red card Finn Russell for his collision with Dan Biggar – which I think most Scotland fans believe he got right!

    1. I made this point in another comment somewhere, but by citing Russell have World Rugby not effectively said Jackson was wrong to only award a yellow? Surely they’ll look at his performance, note that he made several mistakes (against both teams it has to be said) and now have to include the fact he cocked that decision up too.

      I do agree about “crimes” against Scotland, he was just poor in general!

  15. Not meaning to hijack a thread but can anyone shed any light on DTH going to the Scarlets? A step backwards surely?

    1. Just saw this article on the BBC and I’m surprised.
      DTH has been a great servant of the Glasgos club and I’d always wish him well, whatevwr he does.
      Having said that, he’s only 28 and has a lot of years of his prime time left. I wish he wasn’t going, and I’m quite shocked that he is. That’s Nico, DTH Maitland.
      Is somethng happening at Glasgow, or is just another year in professional rugby?

      1. DTH is a massive loss. Consistently one of our best players down the years. A bit like Barclay in that I could understand if he was going to France or England, but struggling with this one. I’m expecting some marquee signings given the quality of the players we are losing.

    2. yeah gutted to hear this, seems a huge blow allied with the other loses.

      I wonder if they have anybody lined up? Purely dreaming of course, but Duncan Taylor from Sarries is somebody I like the look of (cannot stress the fact I’m playing fantasy management!).

      Alternatively, Sam Burgess isn’t setting the heather alight at Bath…;-)

    3. Maybe not such a bad thing- they can bring on a younger player to get experience. I presume they have made some money on a transfer. Its not so bad losing a player in their late 20’s. Lets ne honest, one man does not make a team.

      1. Transfer fees are only paid when a player is in contract and leaves. It is still incredibly rare for transfer fees to be paid for rugby players as most see out their contracts which are rarely for longer than 2/3 years. I assume this is just because most professional teams do not have the money to buy out remaining years on a contract.

        DTH Is coming to the end of his contract. Glasgow have presumably freed up money on their wage bill now that DTH, Maitland and Nico are all leaving but they will also have to budget for increased salaries for young players who are now established internationals like J. Gray, Mark Bennett etc. if not this season then next year.

        Personally, I think Glasgow need at least one big signing in the back three – Lee Jones and Rory Hughes are not in the same class as the three players leaving and Sean Lamont surely does not have many years left in him. Whether Glasgow will have the budget remains to be seen.

  16. Had a few days to absorb all the events of Sunday and feel we need to move on. That said, interesting to see today an independent critique in Rugby World of Jackson’s yellow cards and disputed decisions. The Bennett try knocked off was the only one they judged he erred on, should have awarded a penalty try or a yellow card or both due to head high challenge on Hidalgo-Clyne.

    Am optimistic and I feel Scotland can regroup after what were two close calls. Sure the team will be as hacked off as us fans over the Russell ban as we seem to never get a decent roll of the dice in matches especially against Wales. The crux of it is our game management and composure needs to be improved,yes we are bossing mauls much more than last year but not executing like an Ireland and taking scoring chances. We have exciting backs now with Hogg and Dunbar in top form so should be playing to our strengths and shipping the ball wide as in Paris, rather than battering ram strategy which not our forte.

    Can still make an impact on the 6N table and feel Scotland have surely one big game in them beyond Italy. We will have two bites at Twickenham this year with RWC QF also to aim for so no reason why we can’t win at least one of them. Got to be victors there someday. Be big underdogs v Ireland but tag suits us best and have a record of party pooping against the odds.

    1. Carl- reality check- we don’t stand much of a chance against the other teams- maybe against Italy but that’s it

    1. So because you can’t do something means you can’t have an opinion on something? Defeats the point of a comment section then. Or debates. Or conversation.

      1. McChinn- have you ever tried to run 100m in less than 11 seconds and then had to make in important decision in an instant, knowing that you are being paid about SFA for being there- I think not so lets give the man a bit of respect. Sure he made mistakes during the game but I’m sure that you have made mistakes at work and managed to wrigle out of it.

      2. Yeah I tried on several occasions but never broke the 12.5 second mark. On each occasion though I made the concious decision to not throw up, ultimately I feel I was in the correct.

        Next question?

        On a more general note, I go into work every day and ultimately, I’m judged on my performance by various stakeholders – customers and my superiors. In the case of delivering results, I get praised. Under perform, I get scrutinised and taken to task.

        Jackson went to work, had a shocker and is thus being criticised by the relevant stakeholders – fans and media. Nobody has personally attacked the man, and really most people are of the opinion that whilst his display was poor, scotland only have themselves to blame for not winning.

        Which part of the debate upsets you so much?

        “Oh no! People come on Internet and express opinion about rugby matters on a rugby blog comments section! This can’t happen!”

        Understood. How’s the wether your way? Grey and miserable?

    2. So what you are saying is that you are perfect and never make mistakes- pull the other one. If you had a bad day at the office, the chances are that you would get a dressing down and then would be back on your seat the next day. So he had a bit of a bad day bit (about 3 or 4 mistakes out of the 100 or more that he got right- a score of about 96% in my book if it was an exam) you don’t have to crucify him because of it. Also, how many of your errors go unnoticed- I suspect most of the time. The fact is that you are not filmed as you work or scrutinised by 100,000 fans who have watched you. You do not have your name or photograph in the paper or on a rugby blog when you have messed up. How do you think the poor man actually feels about that. Referees get paid next to nothing to do the most difficult job in the world under high pressure. I wonder if the same could be said of you and most other fans who like to get the knives out and pass judgement. Show a bit of respect.

      1. Seeing as you’re blatantly incapable of producing a coherent message, let alone understand what others have written, I’ve therefore read your message as “you’re perfect”. Cheers bigman, really nice of you to say!

You might also like these:

Gregor Townsend has named a largely experimental squad for the summer tour of the Americas. It's not a question of who misses out, but rather who is actually going, writes Rory.
Iain is joined by Jonny and John to discuss the penultimate round of URC fixtures as well as the recent Scottish Rugby Writers' Awards
Craig is joined by John on the injured reserve list to have a wee look at the URC action from the weekend.
World Rugby has taken steps to ban Dupont's Law amongst three new law changes to be brought in in July.

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion