Eye and M*A*S*H

There continues to be much controversy surrounding the use of the TMO in professional rugby – in all hemispheres. The Premiership Final was only decided after several agonising minutes and replays as both sides (and their supporters) waited for the decision.

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In Australia, Wallaby James Horwill said that “’rugby was ruined and the Reds robbed’ – this seemed a bit of an exaggerated remark as his outburst came after teammate Ed O’Donoghue was sent off for raking a rival’s face in an incident noticed and brought to the referee’s attention by the TMO.

There have been lots of other incidents over the season and now we are told that the IRB are talking to Hawkeye as a possible replacement for the TMO.

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This seems somewhat odd to me, I realise it can often look like a war zone on the pitch but I seriously don’t think there’s any need for a M*A*S*H unit (well not unless you’re playing South Africa or Sidcup anyway). More importantly this is missing the point – it’s not that the technology is failing – the decisions in the Final seemed to be right, even if the referral system wasn’t. The real problem is when and how often the TMO is used – and whether or not he can actually point stuff out to the ref if he spots something that has been missed.

Games can, and are, being stopped by the ref, the assistants and the TMO to report incidents – these are mostly then replayed on the screen so that everyone can see what actually happened – from different angles and at different speeds. Pretty soon we’ll probably be getting a commentary from Graham Norton as well.

It’s messy and it stops the flow of the play – but the alternative is to have players getting away with foul play and forward passes that affect the result. If, as we are so often fond of saying, ‘rugby is a sport of high integrity’, then delays in play are surely an acceptable inconvenience to make sure the game is fair. The task for the IRB and Unions is to find a way to use the TMO (or Hawkeye) as unobtrusively as possible.

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It is a fact that no one complains when the TMO interferes as long as he gives your side the advantage – that doesn’t make it a bad system – it’s the way it is used and better goal line technology won’t solve that.

When I played you were often lucky if the ref turned up at all – it was something of a bonus if he’d remembered to bring a whistle. I’m not joking – we once played with the ref having to shout and wave his hands to get noticed – it was a triumph when he occasionally managed to get heard above all the swearing and sounds of boots stamping on heads. I don’t think I ever played in a game where we didn’t alternately call him “a blind bastard” or shout “well spotted sir” in equal measure. Of course we weren’t being paid. Having said that, we did have several internationals play for us over the years – presumably not just because they were keen to see me eat glass.

Be interesting to see if we do get Hawkeye – and if it can reduce the controversies (fat chance!)

There’s more rubbish at www.rugbyoldbloke.wordpress.com

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