The scope of the Television Match Official (TMO) could be broadened in rugby after criticism that crucial incidents were unable to be reviewed during the Rugby World Cup.
The power of the TMO has arguably been the hottest topic of the tournament that finished on Saturday, when New Zealand beat Australia 34-17 to retain the title and win it for a third time.
There was furor surrounding the decision by South African referee Craig Joubert to award a late, ultimately match-clinching penalty to Australia in the quarter-final against Scotland, even though replays showed the offside decision was wrong.
In the final, referee Nigel Owens missed a clear forward pass by the All Blacks before they were awarded a penalty that was kicked by Dan Carter to push the team 6-3 ahead against the Wallabies.
Those were examples of decisions that cannot be reviewed by the TMO, as referrals can only be sought for the awarding of a try or kick at goal, or assessing acts of foul play.
“These things evolve, as does technology,” Brett Gosper, chief executive of World Rugby, said Sunday in the governing body’s review of the tournament, “so as with any part of the tournament, we will look at this aspect and see if any adjustments need to be made.”
World Rugby took the unusual step of releasing a statement the day after Joubert’s mistake, clarifying that his decision was incorrect. It led to accusations that the governing body undermined one of its leading referees – the man who took charge of the 2011 World Cup final.
Joubert didn’t referee another game at this World Cup.
“If there’s any regret, it’s the perception we may have thrown him under a bus, which certainly wasn’t our intent,” Gosper said.
“There were questions asked around TMO protocol at the time – could you use it, could you not use it?
“Craig Joubert is a world-class referee, he continues to be one of our top referees. Referees, like players, make mistakes. That was one. The perception was not where we would have perhaps liked it.”
As marquees were being dismantled outside Twickenham Stadium and Rugby World Cup banners were being brought down on a foggy morning in south-west London, organisers were hailing “the biggest and best Rugby World Cup ever” and backing those statements up with statistics:
– A total attendance of 2,474,584 across the six-week tournament, which filled 98 per cent of available seats.
– The ticket revenue target of 250 million pounds ($385 million) was exceeded.
– An estimated 460,000 fans travelled from overseas.
– The final was watched by an estimated audience of 120 million, with record numbers of viewers throughout the tournament in Germany, Brazil, Chile, India, China and the Netherlands.
– The lowest overall winning margins of 22 points, compared to 28 in the 2011 tournament; the lowest winning margins in matches between Tier 1 and 2 nations, at 30 points compared to 36 in 2011.
World Rugby said that as of Saturday’s final, there were 320 doping tests. All turned up negative results, with Gosper saying it “confirmed what we feel, that there is no issue in the elite game.”