Nigel Owens’ message to World Rugby as current TMO usage causes ‘far more controversy’

Colin Newboult
Former international rugby referee Nigel Owens in 2020.

Former international rugby referee Nigel Owens in 2020.

Nigel Owens believes that video technology is currently being “overused” and has urged the relevant governing bodies, including World Rugby, to step in.

The former Test referee says that the development of the process over the years has complicated matters for match officials.

As Owens explained, the TMO was initially only used in the act of scoring, but their scope has increased to include foul play and the build-up to tries.

When the margins are so tight, the well respected ex-referee insists that the controversy is bound to increase in the game when more decisions are being made away from the field.

Comparing rugby to football

Owens was comparing the usage of VAR in football with the rugby TMO and felt that both sports had huge room for improvement.

“If you look at rugby, the TMO protocol used to be pretty clear and strict – it was to be used only in the act of scoring,” the 52-year-old wrote in his WalesOnline column.

“You couldn’t use technology to go back five, 10 or even 50 metres, if not more sometimes, to see if somebody was onside or not. You couldn’t do that back then and as a result you didn’t have the amount of controversy we’re having today.

“Once you open up technology to all areas of the field, it’s just going to be inconsistent and bring controversy because whether we like it or not, in football and in rugby, a lot of it is down to the referee’s interpretation, their experience and their ability to make a judgement call.

“You just need to let the referees go out and do that. That’s the way to ensure you have your best officials refereeing games, as at the moment you have some refereeing at a level they probably wouldn’t be able to work at if they didn’t have the technology to make four or five decisions for them in the game.

“Reducing the amount it is used will help the performance of our referees. There are a lot of top quality officials out there and they need to be allowed to referee and make the decisions without relying on technology, which at the moment takes away from their performance.”

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Owens’ message

It is a point that Owens says he has made on a number of occasions and the Welshman hopes that it is eventually heeded by World Rugby and co.

“I’ve said this in many, many discussions with fellow referees and in rugby meetings over the years – if you look at rugby and football now, there is far more controversy and discussion points around decisions with the use of technology than we ever had before,” he wrote.

“My message to rugby and football would be to sit down and find a way to get technology to work the right way for the benefit of the game. At the moment, it’s being overused and it’s simply not working.”

Owens believes that rugby should look at tennis and cricket in how it can implement video technology effectively.

“Technology certainly has its part to play in modern sport. Look at tennis, which has got it spot on,” he added.

“The challenges are very factual, the ball is either in or out and there are no ifs or buts over these important decisions, and I think technology has helped tennis in that way.

“The same goes for cricket, they’ve been able to use technology in the right way and they have seen the advantages.”

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