Nigel Owens' message to World Rugby about TMO causes 'controversy': Planet Rugby

Nigel Owens believes that video technology is currently being “overused” and called on the relevant governing bodies, including World Rugby, to intervene.

The former Test referee says the evolution of the procedure over the years has made things more complicated for the umpires.

As Owens explained, the TMO was initially only used to score goals, but its scope has been expanded to include fouls and try preparation.

With such close game differences, said the much-respected former referee, there would inevitably be more controversy in the game if more decisions were made off the field.

Comparison between rugby and football

Owens compared the use of VAR in football to the TMO in rugby and believed there was much room for improvement in both sports.

“If you look at rugby, the TMO protocol used to be quite clear and strict – it could only be used when points were scored,” the 52-year-old wrote in his WalesOnline Split.

“You couldn't use the technology to look back five, ten or even 50 metres, sometimes even more, to see whether someone was offside or not. That wasn't possible back then and that's why there wasn't as much controversy as there is today.”

“Once you start using technology in all areas of the field, it's just going to be inconsistent and cause controversy because, whether we like it or not, in football and rugby, a lot depends on the referee's interpretation, his experience and his ability to make a judgement call.

“You just have to let the referees go out and do that. That's how you make sure you have the best referees officiating the games, because right now there are referees at a level where they probably couldn't work if they didn't have the technology to make four or five decisions for them in the game.

“Reducing usage will improve the performance of our referees. There are many high-calibre referees and they must be allowed to referee and make decisions without having to rely on the technology that currently affects their performance.”

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Owens' message

Owens says he has raised this point on several occasions and the Welshman hopes World Rugby and others will eventually take notice.

“I have said this over the years in many, many discussions with fellow referees and at rugby meetings – if you look at rugby and football today, there is far more controversy and talking points around decisions made using technology than ever before,” he wrote.

“My message to rugby and football would be to sit down and find a way to properly use technology for the good of the game. At the moment it is being overused and it just doesn't work.”

Owens believes that rugby should take a leaf out of tennis and cricket's book when it comes to effectively implementing video technology.

“Technology certainly plays a role in modern sport. Look at tennis, it has done it exactly right,” he added.

“The challenges are very much about facts. The ball is either in or out and there are no ifs and buts when it comes to these important decisions. I think technology has helped tennis in that respect.

“The same goes for cricket. They have understood how to use the technology properly and have recognised the benefits.”

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