There has been a lot of discussion recently about the use of the TMO in rugby. Many questions have arisen, such as: is it used too often? Are referees scared to make a decision on impulse? Should the video ref be forgotten?
This comes in the light of the Wales v New Zealand game last week, where referee Craig Joubert went upstairs, not once, not twice but three times. Of which, every decision came back ‘No Try.’ Then in Ireland’s match against Australia, the TMO was called upon to confirm a clear try – a decision that the referee should have made himself.
Conrad Smith who crossed the line last week against Wales was positive he scored, despite the referee’s decision: “I thought I grounded the ball but who knows? I got up thinking they’d called a forward pass because that’s all the Welsh fellas were telling me, so I didn’t celebrate then they went upstairs… I’m not a fan of the video ref,”
“I’d love refs just to make the call. That’s a big part of rugby. But there’s a fair argument if they’re big calls in test matches and video refs can help them, maybe there’s a case for that but it’s out of my hands.”
Games can be won and lost based on a referee’s decision. If Tommy Bowe was granted his second try against Australia on Sunday the game would have had a completely different ending, but the TMO decision was ‘inconclusive’. So much pressure is on a referee within a game, when faced with a decision balanced between a match winning try or match saving tackle, I don’t blame them for using the ‘cushion’ of the video replay, and have another official advise them on what to decide.
Currently, I feel sorry for referees in sport, they are always wrong in some one’s opinion. Warren Gatland slated Joubert for missing Dan Carter’s high tackle on Martin Roberts. Brian Moore on BBC’s commentary always has something to say about the way the scrums are officiated and Alex Ferguson in football seems to loathe referees currently, even though it has landed him in trouble with the FA. Any decision a referee makes, is always criticised. So how can anyone expect a referee to confidently make a 50/50 call, in such a pressured environment?
There has been some criticism that the video ref was used excessively in the Welsh game. Why have the technology, if you will moan about it being used? It’s not like any of the game is being lost, the clock stops until a decision has been made. So I say; fair play to a referee who wants an extra opinion or a slower version of events to help make a decision. Surely it makes the game fairer?
I feel that if the video ref is scrapped, it will be very quickly reinstated. Players and managers won’t have realised what they had until it was lost.
Possibly we could go down the route of Tennis and Cricket where there is a restriction on the number of times Hawk-Eye can be used. However, the technology used in rugby is not as advanced as Hawk-Eye. Computer systems track the flight of a ball and make a very accurate estimation of where the ball landed. In rugby, the decision goes to another human being who may be exposed to different interpretation and could make an error under pressure.
I’m not saying Hawk-Eye is flawless but it is far more accurate than human judgement. It’s fair to say though, Hawk-Eye would have no place in rugby, it simply wouldn’t work. So if the technology for referees was to be adapted, something pretty sophisticated would have to come up. Perhaps Sky or the BBC should introduce more cameras around the try line therefore it increases the likelihood of capturing the play.
However, until a suitable form of technology is introduced to improve a referee’s decision making, I say to referee’s, use the technology available, it’s there and it should be used.
By Callum Sheppard