Craig Dowd
TMO bunker a bit too FBI for rugby
Craig Dowd
June 16, 2015
The Chiefs' Tom Marshall (C) was sent to the sin-bin in an interesting call at the weekend © Getty Images
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There was an interesting call, a fair call, in the Chiefs-Hurricanes match at the weekend where Chiefs full-back Tom Marshall was sin-binned. I watched that and thought, 'OK'. But the TMOs and how we adjudicate the game need to be really careful. I'm not saying it was the wrong call; but how many times do you see, for example, a player held up short of the goal-line? Technically, the tackler hasn't released and he's never, ever called up.

I think the TMO was very clever and he went by the letter of the law; but if we want to be clever, how many times do we see the ball held up short? Technically, everyone should let that player go and he's allowed to place the ball, and there's no reason why he can't place that ball on the goal-line. It should be a penalty-try. It's a can of worms. If we want to be technically correct on everything we do, the game of rugby is going to suffer and the viewer is going to say: 'What the hell is going on?'

It comes back to the TMO, what do we want him for? And it really should be that the referee asks the question: "Look for this and don't come back with your own opinion and tell me because I actually did see it and I will go with that. But if you tell me your opinion and you've got the law book in front of you then you've got an advantage. But that is not the question I am asking you."

I have seen that SANZAR are looking at a bunker-type system of TMO's hidden away somewhere away from the game to involve fewer people in the decision-making system, aiming for greater consistency in all member countries. It is all a bit FBI-ish. You have to ask: "Really, is the game that broken that we have to get away from the referee making a decision?"

A classic instance occurred in the Highlanders-Blues game when Joe Latta scored in a melee of players over the goal-line. I was so glad that we saw it because nine times out of 10 you wouldn't see it because it was buried in the middle of a maul.

Chiefs 13-21 Hurricanes (Australia only)

So often it goes upstairs to the TMO who says: 'I never saw the grounding, no try'. But if the referee peeled back the bodies and saw this guy lying on the ball with no-one else around him of course he scored the try. The logic is taken away because someone sitting in a box upstairs can't see the ball on a TV replay and can't award the try, even though down on the ground everyone, all his mates, know he scored the try.

We've seen that ever since the TMO came in and the decision has been taken away from the referee. I would love to see that sort of common-sense come back into it. You get a driving maul that sets that sort of chance up and it is an integral part of rugby.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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