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Refs eager to take control

Referees at Aviva Premiership matches have been instructed to take greater responsibility for decisions by avoiding unnecessary use of television match officials.

The scope for consulting TMOs increased last season when the power for officials to review footage of incidents of foul play and up to two phases before a try was extended to every game.

A knock-on effect of the change meant some matches lasted substantially longer than 80 minutes with the inevitable loss in momentum frustrating supporters, players and coaches.

Acting on guidance from the International Rugby Board, the Rugby Football Union body responsible for referees has responded by issuing new instructions.

"The TMO was one of the major talking points of last season," said Wayne Barnes, England's leading official.

"We were rightfully criticised by clubs and the media because we weren't as good as we needed to be. Our aim for this season is to be better.

"We want to try and take more responsibility. If we're in a good position to see whether a pass is forward or not, we should be calling it.

"Let's not send it to the TMO and take two or three minutes out of the game.

"Let's make as many decisions on the pitch as we can. We should be making decisions ourselves."

Tony Spreadbury, head of the RFU's professional game match officials, wants referees to adopt a less fussy approach.

"There has been a tendency to say 'we better check this' or 'we better check that'. But we want none of that now," Spreadbury said.

When footage of an incident is required, officials have been told to avoid gratuitous use of replays.

"One of the big bugbears of teams who want to play with a high tempo is when it takes four or five minutes when it's clear on the first angle what's happened," Barnes said.

"We'll now go with the decision as quickly as we can, although sometimes it takes five or six angles.

"But we don't just want to show replays for the sake of showing them."

How extensively the new guidelines are used will offer an interesting sideshow to the 2014-15 Premiership season, which begins on Friday when Gloucester visit Northampton.

Referees are clearly stuck between a rock and a hard place knowing they must limit their use of the TMO where possible while ensuring they avoid making mistakes that will incur the wrath of coaches.

Meanwhile, RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie has predicted an end to negotiations with Premiership Rugby over World Cup compensation "sooner rather later".

IRB regulations forbid matches being staged during the group phase of their global showpiece, which is being hosted by England next year.

Alarmed by the possibility of five income-free months, the Premiership clubs are demanding the RFU cover for the lost revenue amid threats they will hold games in contravention of IRB rules.

Ritchie believes a resolution will be reached within weeks and confirmed the IRB have been approached over securing dispensation to play Premiership matches in the knock-out stages of he World Cup.

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