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World Cup TMO worries extend beyond Twickenham

Published 19/09/2015

The television match official was kept busy in England's World Cup opener
The television match official was kept busy in England's World Cup opener

Objections to over-zealous use of the television match official continued into day two of the World Cup with Ireland coach Joe Schmidt concerned it could lead to injury and his Georgia counterpart Milton Haig warning that viewers may decide to switch off.

The discontent began during Friday's opener between England and Fiji, a match that saw the clock stopped for a total of 10 minutes and eight seconds as referee Jaco Peyper referred six incidents to the TMO for closer inspection.

The interruptions robbed the game of momentum and fuelled debate over the negative impact the TMO had on the spectacle, although each time Peyper sought clarification the correct decision was made.

On one occasion the South African awarded a try to Fiji scrum-half Nikola Matawalu and just as the conversion was about to be taken, he spotted on the big screen that the scrum-half had dropped the ball over the line and reversed his judgement.

Opposition to use of the TMO was evident at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday when loud boos greeted the decision by referee Glen Jackson to refer Ireland's third try, by Jonathan Sexton, in their 50-7 rout of Canada.

The correct decision was made swiftly, but Jackson's failure to make a routine call displeased the crowd. Schmidt broadly welcomes TMO intervention, but retains some misgivings.

"I think you want to get the right decision so it's great the TMO is available for that," Schmidt said.

"Someone told me that the first half of the England game lasted 53 minutes and I'm not sure that's what we're looking for. Hopefully that's going to be the exception not the rule. Hopefully we can keep it in context.

"For foul play and deciding tries it's proven its worth, but hopefully games will survive on their own merits and it won't need to be used so often.

"And hopefully the game will keep going as well because there's nothing worse than players having long, disruptive periods.

"Those periods mean they tend to slow down a bit, cool down a bit and it makes them more susceptible to soft tissue injuries."

Tonga were disappointed that Viliami Ma'afu had a try disallowed by Nigel Owens in their 17-10 upset by Georgia at Kingsholm without first consulting the TMO. Replays subsequently revealed a marginal call.

Haig, Georgia's coach, offered a slightly different view and a warning over the impact the delays could have on the sport.

"I think you will find that it is probably going to impact on people viewing the game. We don't want to turn into American gridiron, that's for sure," Haig said.

"I suppose it is just a necessary evil. I understand where World Rugby are coming from, trying to make sure they make the right decisions.

"You have got to take the good with the bad, and it is just a matter of balance, really."

There was no technological party pooping in Brighton, however, as Karne Hesketh's last-gasp try was given instantly to complete the biggest upset in rugby history as South Africa were beaten 34-32 by Japan.

Two matches - England against Fiji and Tonga against Georgia - have taken over 100 minutes and the officiating was thrust under the spotlight once more at Twickenham on Saturday night when France faced Italy.

In an almost carbon copy of Matawalu's disallowed score 24 hours earlier, referee Craig Joubert awarded Les Bleus wing Noa Nakaitaci a try upon consultation with TMO Shaun Veldsman.

Fly-half Freddie Michalak was just about to start his run up for the conversion when a fresh, rear view, angle of Nakaitaci dropping the ball over the line appeared on the big screen, prompting Joubert to refer the decision back to Veldsman.

It was a farcical incident that drew strong views from New Zealand and Australia greats Sean Fitzpatrick and Michael Lynagh. Fitzpatrick, the former All Blacks skipper, demanded urgent action from World Rugby.

"The TMO got that wrong. We need to get this sorted out before the next game," Fitzpatrick told ITV.

"We shouldn't be talking about referees and TMOs, we should be talking about the spectacle on the pitch.

"The TMO didn't look through it, he looked at the forward pass. What is the referee doing? What are the two assistant referees doing? Why do we need assistant referees if we're going upstairs every time?

"This example is a classic and on both occasions it's only because the referee saw it on the big screen in the stadium that the decision was changed.

"It wasn't changed because the TMO was saying we have to go back to this, it was because of the big screen."

Former Australia fly-half Lynagh, a World Cup winner in 1991, criticised the length of time it is taking for decisions to be made.

"It's taking too long. It's the process that's wrong," Lynagh said.

"The right decisions are important because you don't want to miss out getting into the next round because of a wrong decision, so it's important.

"And the right decisions are being made. It's just the process and length of time being taken to get to that.

"It's important to get decisions right on these big occasions, but let's work out how we can do that quickly, concisely and correctly."

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