Justin Marshall 's Opinion

Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall's Chalkboard: TMO is ruining the game

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All bar one try in last weekend's clash between the Highlanders and Lions was referred to the TMO. Photo / Getty Images
All bar one try in last weekend's clash between the Highlanders and Lions was referred to the TMO. Photo / Getty Images

It took the Highlanders-Lions game last weekend to crystallise my thoughts on an issue with modern rugby - the TMO (television match official) and, more specifically, the over-use of the TMO is infuriating me.

All bar one try in that match was referred to the TMO. It was a genuine mood killer, an anti-climax for players and, more importantly, spectators.

Referees have become scared to make a decision for fear of getting one wrong and it is killing the spontaneity of the game.

The Highlanders scored an 80m try. That's the time when the fans should be on their feet, high-fiving each other and spilling beer. Instead they're sitting on their bums waiting two minutes for somebody in front of a telly to try to find a reason to deny the try. That sensational, shared moment is gone.

I've got mates who go these games and they're telling me they're sick of it.

It ruins the atmosphere and if you haven't got great access to a large screen replay, the paying spectator is effectively cut out of the action.

We've got to be careful we don't get like league. I like league and enjoy watching it, but they've taken the use of the TMO to extremes on try decisions and it kills the game.

Rugby is starting to go down that path but they cannot afford to. The one advantage league has got it is a fairly simple game with few rules.

What's the end point for rugby? Do we have the TMO looking at the previous scrum, trying to determine whether the tighthead was boring in? Or whether the flanker might have left early?

Right now, New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew is at an IRB ,meeting, discussing the future of the game. I hope they're looking at this issue as stringently as, say, scrums.

Rugby should be about celebrating and commiserating... not waiting. It should be about teaching the good sportsmanship that comes with accepting bad decisions, knowing they'll even out in the end.

Just look at the players. They go from the euphoria of thinking they've scored a try to the purgatory of waiting for a TMO to make a decision. Even if it is eventually awarded, that moment is lost forever.

Do we really want that?

The club player has no access to technology, but it still doesn't stop him or her turning up each week and having a ball.

I know there's a lot on the line at the top level. There's trophies and all sorts of revenue at stake.

But we can't forget what the essence of sport is about. I can't help but feel the TMO is stripping away some of that.

What do you think?

Justin Marshall

Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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