This week has seen a monumental decision
which has the potential to transform rugby in the northern hemisphere.
No, it isn't Mike Tindall's £25,000 fine
and ban from the England
set up. Nor is it Wales'
refusal to allow some of their top stars play for the Barbarians against England later
It is in fact how the Aviva Premiership could
become the first league north of the equator to trial the extended use of
Television Match Officials. The International Rugby Board want to have two
leagues - one in the north and one in the south - to test the new rules.
The trial will see referees have far
greater powers of referral and TMOs could even get involved and overturn a
decision including forward passes and even red card incidents.
It is a move which will transform elite
club rugby and Oval Talk welcomes it as it should eliminate any injustices. The
prime example which leaps to mind is that of Manu Tuilagi's controversial
yellow card in last season's Premiership semi-final between Leicester and Northampton.
Tuilagi should have been sent off for his
assault on Chris Ashton and had the TMO been able to inform the referee about
the incident the England
centre would have been given his marching orders.
As it happened Tuilagi escaped with just a
yellow card and Leicester went on to win 11-3.
The Samoan-born star was retrospectively suspended for five weeks but that was
little consolation for to Northampton
who saw their title dreams disappear that afternoon.
That whole episode was intolerable,
and if the extended use of TMOs means that we can avoid incidents similar to this in the future
then it cannot be introduced soon enough.
When asked about Tuilagi's non-red card the
Premiership's rugby director, Phil Winstanley, said: "In last season's
semi-final, the fact the referee Wayne Barnes had a decision to make when there
was footage flashing on the big screen showing exactly what the incident was,
yet he couldn't look at it and act, questions the whole integrity of the sport.
"My view is that we should do anything
we can to ensure we get the right decision and I don't think we should limit
the powers of the TMO at all.
"The imperative is that we get
decisions right. In a professional sport, when things are happening quickly and
a lot faster than they used to, we've got have recourse for the TMO."
The coaches are all for it and if all the
regulations get sorted we could see the extended use of TMOs in the Premiership
as early as next season.
It will surely not only improve the
integrity of the sport but it will also make it fair.