Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Too Much Obfuscation

With World Rugby's clarification of Joubert's mistake, and further clarification that there was no opportunity to resort to the TMO, it leaves Joubert with all of responsibility for the result. From the intent look on Joubert's face as he was watching the video replay when Foley was lining up the kick, I think that he understood the facts. He performed well for 78 of his 80 minutes, but one small and easy to understand mistake has transformed him into a villain. In a case of history rhyming, Joubert was also the referee who was judged to have incorrectly penalized Richie McCaw in the 2014 Super Rugby Final. In the 78th minute, Bernard Foley was able to kick for three points that secured the victory for the Waratahs.

I hope that aside from leaving Joubert to hang, World Rugby takes a proactive position and reviews the purview of the TMO. When the TMO was first introduced, he was recognized as performing a service to the game, assisting the referee at critical areas of the match such as when tries needed confirmation or when foul play needed review. Then, a few years ago, we started experiencing issues when referees became less assured of their competence and suddenly the TMO was involved in reviewing every painful second of every try. I don't think anyone wants to go back to those times.

If I ruled World Rugby, I would suggest taking a page from the NFL's challenge system. Each coach is given two challenges that may be used in a match. The challenges must occur during stoppage in play, and be thrown down before the other team restarts play, such as when Foley is lining up his kick, but not if he quickly taps the ball and plays the penalty. The challenges cannot be used if the referee has stopped play and engaged the TMO already, much like how the NFL will not allow the coach to contradict a decision that has already been further reviewed.

I think that if teams were allowed limited use of challenges to a referee's decision, it would not undermine the referee. There are many times during a match when the referee is not in the best position to observe the actions of thirty players in contact with each other, and I don't think that it's a bad thing if a coach asked for a TMO review, especially if the call is a critical one. I think that Joubert would not have minded if Scotland had been allowed to use the TMO. He is one of the best in the world and it's a shame how he is being blamed for a decision that he made to the best of his ability.

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