As the Heineken Cup season gets under way, a series of controversial decisions by match officials in opening matches, has led to the International Rugby Board’s decision trial the wider use of television match officials to help get more accurate opinions on red card offences and crucial forward passes, among other things.
The trial will be operated over two competitions, one northern and one southern hemisphere, and the Premiership will be the chosen host next season. The aim is to prevent miscarriages of justice such as Manu Tuilagi’s yellow card for punching Chris Ashton last season.
In order to process the natural flow of the game, two possible options are being suggested, to leave the decision to refer a decision entirely to the referee, or to offer each captain one referral per game.
The small margins in the scores in top rugby clashes make it crucial for officials to get pivotal decisions right. For instance, had Bath been beaten by Montpellier and been out of Europe as a result, the decision to award the second-half try would have caused a monumental row.
Bath have seen six of their matches already this season go down to the final play, while if Northampton felt they had been wronged during the final phases at Thomond Park, under the new scheme, Dylan Hartley could have asked for the specific piece of video to be checked.
Although there are naturally concerns as to the detail, coaches are believed to be widely in favour of a move which will increase accuracy in the emerging professional game.