Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: IRB want a faster game

Waiting for TMO decisions is causing frustrating breaks in some Super Rugby games. Photo / Getty Images
Waiting for TMO decisions is causing frustrating breaks in some Super Rugby games. Photo / Getty Images

The mantra at next year's World Cup is shaping to be 'a good game is a quick game' amid concerns a global audience will lose interest if there are endless referrals to video officials.

The experiment of allowing referees to review the two previous phases before a try was scored has not been a roaring success in Super Rugby. The pervading view is too many games are taking too long and the essence of what the rules were designed for has been lost.

The rationale for increasing the powers of the television match official was to provide the referee with a means to seek clarification if he felt there was a clear and obvious infringement in the immediate build-up. Likewise, the rules were extended to include reviews of foul play but, again, the intention was more about providing evidence of the severity rather than to try to determine whether it happened.

Speaking in London last week to mark 500 days until the World Cup, IRB chief executive Brett Gosper hinted at the need for the game to strike a better balance at next year's tournament.

The officiating has to be accurate, but also decisive was the sub-text. Technology can't be used to discover what the eye didn't initially see. No one wants the complexities of rugby to become its greatest weakness with TMOs asked to peer at footage to find a stray hand doing something it shouldn't have.

The 2015 World Cup will enjoy the biggest stadium and broadcast audience in history and, as much as those running the game don't want to see injustice and controversy, they also don't want those experiencing the game for the first time to be left agitated and bored by endless TMO intrusion.

Perception will be everything and, even if the stopwatch says games aren't blowing out, if ticket holders leave stadiums with a sense they have, the opportunity to convert the casual follower into an avid fan will be lost.

It's a scenario being faced by other sports, with NRL games running overtime as referees refer nearly every try for fear of getting the decision wrong.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew will attend an IRB council meeting this week and suspects the issue will be discussed both formally and informally.

"My personal view is that it is right and proper for Brett to be leading debate on this," Tew said.

"I know he's very conscious about 'brand rugby' and we have to get the balance on this right.

"We have to make the most of technology but not at the cost of rugby losing the unique elements it has."

The expectation at this stage is that most of the leading nations are in favour of the current trial laws around the TMO being retained for the World Cup.

No one necessarily sees the need for a major overhaul or revamp but all would be in favour of referees being given firm direction on how to best apply the laws at the World Cup.

- Herald on Sunday

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