Chris Pollock is not well known in France. This is the sign of undeniable talent for a world panel referee. Number one of his nation, the New Zealand, he made his international debut in 2009. For you, Esprit de la Règle contacted him.
« – Hello Chris, and thank you for accepting our interview. First, why did you become a referee ?
– Back in 1997, when I was injured, I got asked to referee a trial at school. I was teaching at as there was no referee. After the trial, another teacher who was a referee coach suggested I had done a reasonable job and asked if I would consider refereeing until I returned from injury. I never played another competitive game and the rest is history, as they say.
– You are an international referee since 2009, do you remember of one game especially ?
– All the internationals I have done have been special for different reasons, but making my Tri-Nations debut in 2011 and my 6 Nations debut in 2012 were two highlights.
– Which game, on your mind, has been your toughest opposition to referee ?
– The toughest game I think I have had to referee was the final of the Air New-Zealand Cup in 2007. It was Auckland vs. Wellington and I lived in Wellington at the time, so that added some extra pressure for me.
– Could you explain us how you physically prepare yourself to the games ?
– I really enjoy cycling and doing CrossFit, so the majority of my training is either on the bike or in the gym, doing short intense work outs.
– Do you have some rituals before your matchs ? Do you feel some pressure ?
– I don’t really have any rituals other than ensuring I have done all my preparation physically, mentally and looking at both teams. However, I definitely feel the pressure going into games, no matter what level it is.
– Are you, as many referees are, refereeing with an Acme whistle ?
– Yes, I referee with an Acme Thunderer.
– What is the essential role of the referee in your opinion ?
– Refereeing is about understanding the game first and foremost, and then understanding people and how to deal with them. Anyone can read the law book and say « that is right » or « that is wrong », but it takes real skill to know when or when not to blow your whistle. For me that is the art of refereeing… Likewise, having the ability to manage 30 players on the pitch, effectively is a massive part of refereeing and what sets your average club referee apart from someone who is world class.
– What is, on your mind, the most difficult aspect in refereeing ?
– There is no doubt in my mind : the scrum and the breakdown. If you can get these two areas right you will generally have a pretty good day at the office. The reason why both of these phases is so difficult is because both phases are so dynamic and happen so quickly.
– You have been recently involved in the Lions Tour : do you consider it as a particular event ?
– The Lions was a great tour to be a part. The games were close (except for the last one) and the crowds were amazing. I also thought it brought out the true colours of both coaches ; one was gracious and diplomatic, the other…
– Let’s talk about the new scrum law : is it harsh for a referee to change the sequence ? Does it break the habit ?
– I have really enjoyed refereeing the new scrum sequence and think it is far easier to control than the previous call. Bringing the teams mean there is less force in the engagement which in turn gives the scrum more chance of staying up.
– What do you recommend to the young referees who are beginning their career ?
– Two things… Try and understand how the game is played as much as you can : spend time watching rugby and going to teams practices. Take every opportunity you can to referee. We generally only get 80 minutes a week to practice getting better at refereeing, so you need to find other ways that will help you practice. Understand who you are as a person : what are your strengths and weaknesses ? How do you like to deal with people and how do you like people to deal with you ? When you understand this, you can then shape your refereeing to your personality. We are all different and we all bring strengths to refereeing. Don’t try and change who you are, use the best parts of your personality to grow your refereeing.
– Our traditional question : could you tell us a funny anecdote of which you remember ?
– In a game, a prop ended up at halfback and had to clear the ball to the #10 who was standing in in-goal. When he passed the ball, he threw the ball over the #10’s head and over the dead ball line. As we set the 5m scrum for carrying the ball back, I said to the prop : « Don’t give up your day job ! », to which he turned around and said : « I could say the same thing to you ».
– We would like to close this interview in a funny way… The RefCam has been inaugurated in France at the end of last season ; what do you think about that technology, technically… and esthetically ?
– I am not a big fan of it… We are there to referee a game of rugby, not be a camera man ! Besides we already look ridiculous in some of the uniforms we have to wear (per exemple pink) so we don’t need to make it worse by having a camera strapped to out head ! The public already think we are idiots, the majority of the time ! »
We would like to thank warmly the NZRU, who responded quickly and positively to our request, and Chris Pollock, for the time he spent for us. Thank you very much ! 🙂
Please excuse some possible english mistakes by the authors. A french traduction of this interview is available on this website too !