WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Governing body SANZAAR has ordered a review of the use of television match officials in Super Rugby, saying the "practical implementation" of the video referee protocols has become an area of "major concern."
The announcement of the review on Monday came after a long series of contentious decision by TMOs in Super Rugby and in the June test matches, and in the face of mounting criticism from coaches and players of the intrusion of the video officials into decision-making.
TMOs were installed to assist the on-field referees in reaching decisions which could often be clarified only by the examination of video replays. Increasingly, video officials have entered unbidden into the decision-making process, instructing on-field officials to disallow tries or to award yellow or red cards for foul play. Some of those TMO decisions have proved inaccurate.
The issue reached a head last weekend when flanker Ed Quirk of Japan's Sunwolves was sent off in a Super Rugby match against the Queensland Reds at the insistence of the TMO after his fist brushed the face of Reds player Hamish Stewart at a ruck. The decision was widely criticized by players, who said TMOs are damaging rugby by over-reacting to minor offenses.
SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said a review was necessary to ensure the protocols around the use of TMOs are correctly followed.
"The performances of the (referees) in the middle and those on the sidelines and behind the TV monitor are regularly reviewed and appraised to ensure the best referees and officials are officiating in Super Rugby matches," Marinos said. "A major concern for us at present is the practical implementation of the TMO protocols.
"The protocols are clearly not working and a specific review is required in this area. SANZAAR believes the appointed referee needs to remain the key decision-maker on the field and that TMO interventions only provide context to the match officials' decision-making."
Marinos said there was a need for consistency in the way the TMO protocols were applied, "and most would agree that perhaps this is not the case."
"The aim of the review will be to drive some operational chances to the protocols to ensure this consistency so that better outcomes are delivered."