To TMO or not to TMO

There have been a couple of incidents at the rugby world cup where use non-use of the TMO (referring referreeing decisons to video evidence) seem to be influencing the game in a way they shouldn’t be.

The fact that video replays are shown within the stadium when play has stopped, allowing players and fans to see if a referee has made a wrong decision is wrong, refereeing is a hard enough job as it is without such scrutiny.

TMO is used at the world cup and the six nations and has become part of the game at international fixtures. However, it should not change the way the game is played and make it different to playing at club or amateur level.

The first incident occured in the opening match between England and Fiji. Fiji appeared to score a try, the ref and the linesman were behind the ball and a try was awarded. This is normal at club level as the the probability is that a try has been legally scored. Then, a slow motion replay was shown on the big screen which clearly showed the Fijian player knocking on just before the try line. The ref then (as the kicker was preparing for the conversion attempt) stopped play and referred to the TMO, and the decision to award the try was reversed. Even though technically it wasn’t a try, it only wasn’t due to the TMO rules, hence changing the game. TMO should only be used for marginal decisions where the ref is in doubt or unsighted. To be consistent then  every try would have to go to TMO.

The TMO rules need changing as at the moment the TMO can only be used in specific circumstances such as  to pick up foul and dangerous play, which is good for ensuring player safety. However TMO can’t be used for penalty decisions, this has an affect on the game as  teams are then encouraged to take penalties instead of pushing for a try. There are too mnay penalties in the game as it is in my opinion, more should not be encouraged.

Which brings me to the other incident, in yesterdays quarter final match between Scotland and Australia. It was a superb match, with 1 point separating the teams with 90 seconds to go. Scotland messed up their own lineout, it appeared to be an accidental knock on followed by an accidental offside. Everyone expected an excitign final scrum with an Australian put in. Instead the ref awarded a penalty, a wrong decision, that affected the outcome of the game in the final minute. The ref has to make an on the spot decision, but couldn’t be certain it was a penalty or not, if it’s not clear a penalty shouldn’t be awarded. Here was a situation where whether it was a penalty was unclear, so perhaps should have been referred to the TMO. The ref could, however, have asked the linesman if they had seen anything.

As a supporter of the Welsh national team I have seen the odd wrong decision lose us games. Having said that, watching at home on the telly I’ve also seen penalties awarded to Wales, we shouldn’t have, Refereeing is tough and wrong decisions are simply part of the game. However again thsi incident was shown on the big screens at the game, the crowd and the ref watched it and saw that a wrong decision had been made. This time the ref couldn’t refer to the TMO and potentially reverse the decision. This is the inconsistency, why TMO for a try and not a penalty? It will be interesting to see how the IRB respond to the use of TMO in this world cup.

As a fan of rugby, such things do ruin games as a spectacle for the supporters. It was a great contest to watch. For Scotland, coming close to getting to the semi-finals is heartbreaking, to lose the match in the final minute by a wrong refereeing decision, doubly so. It’s tough on the victors, Australia, too, as they are seen as not progressing by winning the game, but by being lucky with a refereeing decision, celebrations are then muted. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth for the neutral too ( I was of course supporting our comrades in Scotland).

Finally and incidentally, I do not condone the abuse the referee has received online. Completely uncalled for, as i said a very tough job and in a game such as rugby you are never going to get every decision right. So, use the TMO where there is doubt and don’t show replays in the stadium (part of the fun is watching a replay at home after a match and seeing what happened at all the breakdowns.

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