Part of a referee’s pre-match duties is to carry out the stud check (Law 6.4). This is not just for form; this is a safety issue! At the last Monthly meeting Tristan showed us a picture of a player who had a long deep wide cut from ear to mid-cheek caused by illegal studs with an edge which had not been picked up by the referee.
If you follow Premiership Rugby, you will have seem the large scar that Nick Schonert (now of Sale Sharks) carriers on his cheek. Back in 2015 he was caught by a stray boot while playing for Worcester. Presumably, at that level, studs were checked and legal at the start of the game.
At a more relatable level, those of you at the last Monthly meeting will have seem the igage shown by Tristan of a player who had a long deep wide cut from ear to mid-cheek caused by illegal studs with an edge which had not been picked up by the referee.
As a group we need to work together to a consistent standard on this to ensure that we don’t see injuries like those.
If you read the WhatsApp group, you will have seen a discussion between John W and myself and what follows is based around that discussion and my own experiences.
So what is what a legal stud…
Boots manufactured and sold for rugby must have studs that comply with the World Rugby Specification.
In an idea world they should look like this…
For more examples see pages 9 to 12 of the following RFU RugbySafe Essentials document.
Boots manufactured and sold for football, but purchased by players for use in rugby, will have studs that may or may not be legal. Studs supplied with football boots often taper too much and are too narrow at the tip. If they have a rounded end they may be safe but it seems unlikely that they will have been tested to the World Rugby Specification.
Adult players seen largely ignorant of the requirements while junior players probably just don’t know. Coaches of ages grade players should be taking a led on this and ensuring their players have safe equipment.
Often when I do pull someone up on their studs, I am often told that “the Ref last week didn’t have a problem”. This may or not be true, but it is more likely that the player has just ignored previous advice and not bothered to change their studs.
Too often players have studs which are too narrow at the tip; probably fine for football but possibly not legal for rugby football (see above).
Occasionally players will be missing a stud at the front or the back. They much have both studs fitted at the front and back (puncture risk).
Rarely players will have worm studs with burrs or sharp edges (cut risk). Both aluminium studs and synthetic blades and moulded studs can develop sharp edges if worn across hard and abrasive surfaces such as car parks.
Not all blades and moulded studs are legal (see the RFU link below)
A note on the Canterbury boots and studs. Canterbury are one of the major boot manufactures and the studs they supply have a flat base, not rounded as in the picture above. Although not rounded, it is almost certain that these studs comply with the World Rugby Spec. Canterbury have too much to lose by getting this wrong. Just check for sharp edges.
So what should we, as match officials, be doing at the stud check…
Firstly, use your eyes and have a good look. Make sure that you can see all of the studs (Are they covered in mud? Has the player got the front studs buried in the ground? Players who kneel down make life much easier).
Point out any studs that are missing or that you believe do not comply, or are unsafe.
If in any doubt, run your hands over the studs to check for burrs and edges.
If missing studs need to be replaced (front or back pairs) or you feel that the studs are likely to be a danger, then insist that they are replaced or changed AND that the player shows you the replacement studs or boots before kick-off.
If there is an incident during the match, re-inspect the studs.
We are not here to stop people playing, but we do have a responsibility for the safely of all participants. I for one do not wish to be involved in an incident like those outlined at the start of this article.