The IRB and its Member Unions have underscored their commitment to consistent and accurate match officiating by sanctioning and supporting two trials that will see the powers of the television match official (TMO) extended for the next season of the Aviva Premiership in England and South Africa’s Absa Currie Cup.
England's premier domestic competition will provide the backdrop for an extended protocol that will now allow the TMO to be consulted on potential infringements prior to a try being scored and potential acts of foul play. A different set of protocols will be used in the Currie Cup.
The English trial will see the current scope of the TMO extended to include the review of any aspect of play from the previous restart (set piece, penalty/free kick, kick-off or restart) up to the ball being grounded while the referee may also call on the TMO to include incidents of potential foul play.
The South African trial will be somewhat more restricted in what the TMO can be called upon to review while still providing additional scope to the current protocol. Specifically, in the Absa Currie Cup, the TMO can be asked to review up to two phases (rucks or mauls) before the ball is grounded.
Results of trial will be extensively evaluated
The trials will be subject to extensive evaluation and Union, player and match official consultation to allow the IRB Rugby Committee to determine a protocol that improves the efficiency of the TMO role without adversely impacting on the character of the Game.
The IRB Rugby Committee recommendation will be considered by IRB Council in November 2013. The trial is in addition to the global trial of six Law amendments approved by the IRB Council in May, from the start of the next season in each hemisphere and forms a package of amendments aimed at enhancing key areas of the Game.
Details of the trial TMO protocols can be found here.
Currently, the TMO protocols are summarised as part of Law 6.A.6 (Referee consulting with others).
The trials have been approved on the basis that they have the potential to address match-affecting incidents that currently are not captured by the TMO. While the trials will greatly assist the match official team, all match officials will be reminded of their responsibility to tackle the clear and obvious and use of the TMO will be included within performance reviews.
IRB has worked in partnership with RFU, PRL and SARU
The RFU paved the way for the trial in England’s premier club following the mandate by the IRB Council that an extended TMO protocol should take place in an elite domestic competition in 2012. The RFU is working in partnership with Premier Rugby Limited (PRL) to implement and manage the trial within the Aviva Premiership. A similar process has been followed within South Africa.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "It is exciting and encouraging that the RFU and SARU have embraced this important trial and opened the way for an extended TMO protocol within these two flagship tournaments."
"Rugby continues to evolve and innovate and there is no doubt that Rugby referees have one of the toughest officiating roles in sport. We are committed to ensuring that they have all the tools they require from conditioning, management and technology to ensure that they can perform to the highest possible standards."
"It should be noted that this is a trial and the extension of technology should not adversely impact the shape and character of the Game. It is therefore important that excessive recourse to the TMO must be avoided for the sake of continuity and, to that end, match officials will be reminded of that and assessed accordingly."
Part of commitment to improve decision-making further
"I would like to thank the RFU, SARU and PRL for enabling this trial to take place in two prestigious, elite competitions and all of our Unions for their commitment to continually reviewing this area of the Game in order that we can further promote accuracy of decision-making in Rugby."
SARU Chief Executive Jurie Roux said: “SARU is delighted to be part of this important trial, which is being applied in our Absa Currie Cup. Most people acknowledge that the extension of the TMO protocols needs to be investigated and so to have two differing sets of protocols being trialled at the same time in elite competitions will give the IRB a unique insight into this crucial area of the modern game. We are happy to be at the forefront of this innovation for the good of the global game.”
Phil Winstanley, Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby, said: “The TMO trial in live televised games allows us to maintain the integrity of our competition by ensuring that the match officials are given the utmost support in getting crucial decisions right. We are extremely mindful about ensuring that we achieve a balance between protecting the integrity of the game and impacting on the dynamic nature of our sport by creating too many stoppages in play.”
RFU Professional Rugby Director Rob Andrew said: “We are delighted that the IRB has sanctioned these trials which will be thoroughly reviewed and analysed at the end of the season to measure the wider impact on our game.”
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