The International Rugby Board’s referees’ boss has announced that the powers of the Television Match Official will be extended in a trial involving high-profile competitions.
New Zealander Paddy O’Brien, who heads the IRB’s referee board, says that in the trial the TMO will be able to adjudicate “across the whole field” in the lead-up to a try.
Under the present laws, a TMO can only be consulted when the referee is unsure when making a decision in in-goal, or the referee is not sure if a player was in touch or not when attempting to ground the ball.
O’Brien announced the trial at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Queenstown’s Skyline Restaurant today (Friday).
O’Brien told the audience that “it’s unfair when a referee gives a try when you at home know that the guy had a foot out on halfway”.
“The TMO, under the trial, will be able to push a button and say to the ref, ‘don’t award the try yet, I’m going to look at something for you’.”
O’Brien says the trial will be undertaken during “yet-to-be-decided” high-profile northern and southern hemisphere competitions.
The limited role of the TMO was highlighted during a controversial decision in August in a Tri-Nations Test between the All Blacks and the Springboks, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
TMO Johan Meuwesen advised referee George Clancy that Jimmy Cowan had cleanly scored a try but then asked Clancy: “Do you need any other information before the goal line?”
Clancy answered ‘yes’, Meuwesen advised him there’d been a forward pass before the try-line and the referee scrubbed out the try.
Controversy erupted because the TMO had exceeded his authority, and technically the try should have been awarded.
O’Brien praises the referees who officiated during the recent Rugby World Cup.
“We think it was an outstanding World Cup, and if the referees were that poor, then how come the World Cup was that good?”
O’Brien was asked by an audience member if referees face a disciplinary process for poor performance.
“People say there is no transparency, and there’s not accountability.
“The bottom line is, these guys are contracted in an employment role – and I ask all you people, is your performance review put out to the public?
“No, it’s not.
“The way we do it is by selection.
“I’ll give you a wee clue – have a look at the Six Nations appointments.
“You will see who’s missing – that may tell you that someone’s not necessarily being disciplined, it just means that we’re going to give them a rest and we’ll have a look at them during Super rugby or European rugby, and bring them back.
“We will not go public and say ‘we are dropping referee X for poor performance.
“We’ll have no referees left if we’re not careful.”
O’Brien also had a shot at South Africans blaming referee Bryce Lawrence for their quarter-final loss to Australia, pointing out they had 75 per cent of the ball.
“Secondly, what about the last penalty you gave away, how dumb was that?
“A referee is a factor in a loss, he’s never the main reason.
“Good teams take referees out of the equation.”