Former Test referee Nigel Owens says television match officials are far too heavily involved in the game and should only be called on to look at tries and serious foul play.
The relationship between referees and TMOs has been heavily debated over the past few years, with many arguing that the TMO is too heavily relied upon these days.
In recent Vodacom United Rugby Championship matches, games have been placed on pause for minutes as referee and TMO debate which call is correct. Such was the case in the game between the Stormers and Vodacom Bulls in Cape Town, when Hacjivah Dayimani was ruled to have made a high tackle on Bulls fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse.
In an interview with the International Racing Club, Owens said giving TMOs enhanced powers has led to referees making more mistakes and second-guessing themselves.
“The TMOs should have stuck to protocol as it was 10, 12 years ago. They were only called on when tries were scored and there was clear uncertainty,” Owens said. “Now we have referees going on to the field subconsciously knowing that, if they miss something, it doesn’t matter. The TMO will come in and correct them. This is when mistakes happen. We need to go back to what it was.
“I was watching a game during the Six Nations, one of the Scotland matches, and I heard the referee asking the TMO seven or eight times, ‘Can you check this, can you check that?’ This should not be happening as it is ruining the game.
“The problem with technology is that referees are second-guessing themselves,” Owens added. “They want to make sure they get things 100% right. When the TMO wasn’t there, the refs were getting it right 99% of the time.
“It’s a bit like this: imagine you put a tightrope in between two tall buildings and you have to walk across. If there is no safety net, you’re going to make damn sure that you are focused and not making mistakes. But, if there is a safety net, you’ll care a lot less. If you fall, you’re safe. That is the attitude.
“The TMO must go back to what it was – for checking after a try or if someone misses a head butt or a punch on the halfway line. But then you also have to ask yourself, ‘What are the three officials doing at this high level when they can’t see that?’”
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