TMO use in Rugby World Cup tries scored may slow down game

TMO use in Rugby World Cup tries scored 'may' slow down game
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World Rugby wants a positive outcome for its 2019 pinnacle event. In that view, host Japan is likely to present the most technologically advanced World Cup ever. However, TMO use in reviewing Rugby World Cup tries scored may, in fact, slow down the game.

The 80-minute rugby union game runs the risk of being ‘over-examined’ when it comes to the act of players scoring a try. Just a few games into the tournament and while raw excitement is still the overwhelming sentiment, officiating and controls will always be discussion points.

No major upsets, yet with a euphoric atmosphere that has shown the sport is capable of reaching new audiences. Japan has embraced the sport. The intention of bringing the World Cup to a country at the leading end of technology and innovation has already shown what is possible on the world’s stage. Yet, the impact of technology is an unknown factor.

The TMO now is now more influential than ever. A progression on 2015, will see the most involvement ever for both technology and in that, TMO (television match official) use; of any prior Rugby World Cup (RWC).

Last Word on Rugby is fearful that in real-time, TMO use in reviewing Rugby World Cup tries scored, may limit the action played on the field.

TMO use in Rugby World Cup tries ‘may’ slow down the game

The conversation is in regards to two factors. The involvement of technology and, the utilization thereof.

Asia’s first tournament will set new standards in rugby broadcast production. The rugby World Cup organizing group has teamed up with International Games Broadcast Services (IGBS) to push the boundaries of rugby broadcasting and to enrich fan experience.

A total of 34 cameras will cover all angles for the semi-finals and the final. Which rises from the 28 and 23 camera plans used for other matches during the tournament. This coupled with the ongoing commitment by referees to control the sport to the laws of the game. In addition to stricter controls on head high tackles and player welfare this means interruption from utilizing this technology could lead to a reduction in ‘minutes played’.

That might be in as much as the additional cameras give viewers varying angles. Yet in replays and when requested by the on-field officials, it might just ‘add to the TMO choices’. The fear is that multiple views could just slow down the judgment.

Television match officials (TMO) have a wealth of options to choose from during the Rugby World Cup. When leading referees were satisfied it three camera angles, they are offered twice as many angles, including the ‘Spider Cam’ vision. It could just be overwhelming.

Without oversight or any limit, you can imagine that officials would too easily, welcome technology.

TMO ‘bunker’ full of monitors, maybe Counter-Productive

Fan experience is mentioned by World Rugby in their public announcement of technology. They want viewers to have the best rugby-product in 2019. As you would expect in Japan. Cutting-edge technology is sometimes years ahead of the common rugby viewer, they are avid enthusiasts. Yet with cameras positioned all around the park, the cameras being used could become somewhat of a glut for adjudging Rugby World Cup tries scored.

When requested, a TMO can ask the match producer for alternate camera angles. These are then presented to him, as well as on the large screens at the ground. Add in the slow-motion replay requests. Then ….. add to that any re-checking of either real-time footage, or ‘can I see another angle?’ questions. Fans could feel aggrieved when a try is awarded in real-time, only for a minute or two to be chewed up, in order for a fair try to be ruled No Try.

Not that it is unwarranted of course.

Valid questions over tries being scored is a positive yet initially, unobtrusive process. How much it impedes the natural course of a modern game though is evident in every first-class broadcasted fixture. And with TMO use prevalent, even with the majority enjoying positive enhancement. That will surely be to a higher volume during the World Cup.

Give me “clear evidence of a grounding” requests by a referee will routinely have a counter-affect on the number of minutes played in a game. The higher the intensity, the more involved it insists it needs to be.

in a crucial knockout semifinal game, fans may well need to be prepared for delays in play.

Counter-productive of course, to flowing rugby. Adverse to examples of matches that can be advertisements for the game [what World Rugby wants]. Yet constant stoppages to confirm Rugby World Cup tries scored is most likely going to be a poorer example.

Stopping the clock could be the answer. However, rugby fans will attest that no matter the intention, TMO decisions will eat up time. Not ‘time-wasting’ but just a natural byproduct of the process.

What is the answer to TMO use and technology?

Last Word on Rugby is not making predictions of major interruption. Technology moves at such a rate. Compared to 2012 TMO use is vastly different from how it is today. The gradual inclusion of TMO use in tries scored (for example) requires five or ten seconds more of adjudication. What many will contest is ‘ample time to impede the progress of the game’.

On the field, players will cry both for, and against its usage. In fact, some even look to vocally cry for referees to look up at the big screen. That may influence how rugby fans experience closely fought games. The opening Japan v Russia game had many stoppages due to the referee calling on the TMO

Yet even when World Rugby identifies how best it is to utilize the red card for Dangerous Tackles. Over-officiating is something that most stakeholders would not wish for.

The answer might be that the judgment must soon meet tighter criteria.

Even though that would create some argument; and end up as convoluted as the breakdown. The TMO will challenge referees over contentious decisions. So unclear that none of the officials had a natural decision.

Referee Craig Joubert refers a decision to the TMO during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool D match at Twickenham Stadium. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

In that mind, many times the ‘easy option’ is to call for the TMO. However, if the 2019 tournament displays ongoing and intrusive delays through that use of technology; in a similar way to sports car racing (where aerodynamics have become over-invasive in the advancement of technology) authorities need an agreement on ‘how much is too much’.

This World Cup might be the catalyst to administrators saying ‘let us bring the human element back into rugby’. The need for intervention by technology has its place, yet the instrument is designed to aid, not to overly influence and slow down the game.

That might be a far off ideal. In this year’s tournament, the usage of technology is obviously of benefit to television viewers. Some of the camera work is astonishingly good. Yet when the TMO calls for a replay, if more than eight options are available, then it will no doubt – and unfortunately – slow down the game.

During the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the test will be in how many minutes of play that the ball is in play; rather than how many are not. Fans would hope for the fewest number, as that is really what the game is all about.

Letting the ball do the talking, rather than officials.


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