TV referees told to speed up decisions
There was a significant improvement in the speed and intervention of television match officials in the four Rugby World Cup games yesterday after match officials were reminded of the need to make swift and decisive calls when reviewing footage following criticism of delays during England’s 31-10 victory against Fiji at Twickenham on Friday night.
The heavy use of the television match official during the tournament’s opening match sparked criticism from England supporters on social media as the long delays to review incidents ensured that the 80-minute game took almost two hours to complete.
The decision to disallow a try by the Fiji scrum-half Nikola Matawalu after it had been given by the referee Jaco Peyper also attracted criticism as the review only came as Fiji were taking a conversion after video replay showed he had dropped the ball.
Roger Lewis, the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, responded to the criticism by admitting that while the decisions were ultimately “right” the speed of them had been frustrating. “We need to speed the process up,” Lewis told BBC Five Live.
The Sunday Telegraph understands that officials were reminded of that responsibility in the wake of the England game, with the length of the TMO reviews also thought to have been hindered by communication issues and the display of the appropriate replays on the screens. World Rugby last night insisted they had full confidence in the TMO system and protocols, which were expanded in a trial in 2013 to also review possible foul play as well and two phases before the ball is grounded for a try.
The new Hawk-Eye technology was also used for the first time in the critical decision to award the try by Billy Vunipola that secured a four-try bonus-point for England, with the zoom feature confirming it was a try.
“The match official team is committed to clear, consistent and above all accurate decision-making and the protocol was used correctly,” a World Rugby spokesman said.
The tightening up of the speed of the television match official decisionmaking follows a successful directive in Premiership Rugby last season in partnership with the Rugby Football Union which saw a significant reduction in the time taken to make decisions and the number of reviews.
“You have to get it right but do it as quickly as you can,” Phil Winstanley, the rugby director at Premiership Rugby, said. “The average time taken for each referral has gone down from 1.31 minutes in 2012-13 in our first season to 1.04 minutes last season.”