Aviva Premiership
Mixed report card for Television Match Official trial
ESPN Staff
October 17, 2012
The scoreboard reveals a decision by the Television Match Official, Wasps v Harlequins, Aviva Premiership, Twickenham, London, England, September 1, 2012
The extension of the Television Match Official's powers has been deemed a "qualified success" © Getty Images

The introduction of extended powers for Television Match Officials (TMOs) in this season's Aviva Premiership has been deemed a qualified success.

The trial, one of two announced by the International Rugby Board earlier this year, allows the TMO to rule on infringements in the build-up to a try from the previous stoppage (penalty, scrum, lineout, free-kick etc), with knock-ons, forward passes, players in touch, offsides, obstructions, early tackles, foul play and double movements all under the spotlight. Previously the TMO was only able to offer clarification regarding the act of scoring.

The TMO has also been granted further leverage in terms of foul play, and can advise the referee of appropriate sanctions - as an assistant referee would - as well as stop the game in the case of a serious incident.

"I am fairly positive about where we are," Ed Morrison, the RFU's head of elite referee development, told The Times. "I think we're doing pretty well overall. We have made some mistakes in the first six weeks, when we have gone to a referral when we didn't need to and times when we should have gone to a referral and didn't. But tries which have been disallowed thus far would probably have been given in the past."

Morrison admitted that human error could not be entirely eliminated and that there was room for improvement in terms of relaying the decision. "We do have to communicate better, the referee to the TMO, the TMO to the [TV] director, the director back to the TMO. The key to success is how quickly we come to the decision. We are looking to get information back to the referee as soon as possible, without compromising the outcome of that decision."

The newspaper reports that in the 18 televised matches in the first six rounds of the Premiership, there were 26 referrals to the TMO for pronouncements on foul play or for adjudication on whether a try had been legally scored. Eight of those were at the London double-header between Harlequins and London Wasps and Saracens and London Irish, where the trial was first rolled out.

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