The IRB is working on a variety of potential law changes and adjustments this year, and Monday announced that it will expand the powers of the Television Match Official (TMO) during the Absa Currie Cup in South Africa and the Aviva Premiership in England.
The key aspects of the changes will be that the TMO could be asked to examine cases of foul play and potential infringements prior to a try being scored – or if foul play prevented a try being scores.
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.
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.
"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," IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said. "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."
The problem with having referees rely on the TMO, however, is that not every venue has the TV capability to allow for a TMO. Many major games in nations where rugby isn’t a high-profile sport are not televised, and if they are don’t have the quick editing ability to give a TMO the right view of a play.
Lapasset commented on this.
"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."