Stuart Barnes questions logic of TMO system after Dylan Hartley incident
Stuart Barnes is dissatisfied with the current TMO system after Northampton's narrow victory at Wasps.
Last Updated: 25/03/13 10:33am
Rose is following the instructions but these instructions appear ill conceived. The replays - from all available angles - showed one shot that looked as if a try had been scored but there was nothing absolute about the slow motion replay.
It was the Dylan Hartley try, Northampton's third, watching the action live it appeared as if Hartley had scored it. Had the referee blown immediately for the score few, if any, would have criticised the decision.
The problem arises when the referee refers the decision to the TMO and the TMO cannot find certain evidence of the touchdown. And that problem emanates from the very decision to double check. If the official is sure, he should give it but the question itself means he is nowhere near say, 99% certain the ball has been touched down.
If the referee is not sure and the TMO considers the try probable rather than definite we are in a confused place - for surely the evidence has to prove that a try has been scored.
This match was decided by two points; much is at stake, not least the professional reputation of the game. A try should not be assumed to have been scored until the evidence proves it.
Now that could be a referee giving the score immediately. Television cameras - unless the intriguing development of the 'ref cam' becomes ubiquitous - are not as flexible as the eyes of the man in the middle; Get himself in a perfect position and he will see a score that technology will struggle to verify. All well and good and in that situation the try must be immediately awarded and the referee's trust guaranteed.
Yet when he asks the question the element of doubt multiplies to the extent that a try should not be awarded unless visual evidence backs up the hunch. The obvious retort to the referee who asks the question (and it is one he is instructed to ask so there is no implicit criticism of the referee) is 'well, if you are not certain and I cannot see it, there is insufficient proof.'
As it is, the TMOs have a series of answers and that is most assuredly not one of them.
If a knock-on, or an illegitimate grounding or part of the body is not adjudged in touch the TMO will say 'no reason not to award the try.' A double negative is inadequate grounds for awarding potentially match and season-changing points.
If the referee refers to his TMO, the logic suggests a degree of uncertainty in need of clearing up and not verification that there has been no obvious reason before the grounding of the ball.
Referees - if sure - must award the try, if not they should be asking a question along the lines of 'is there proof of grounding?' If a try can not be ascertained then it should not be given.
I am pretty sure that Hartley did score but once Rose expressed doubt, proof was needed from the man in the truck. We should not be ever guessing or working on a hunch. To reiterate, this is not a criticism of Hughes or Rose (although the referee might think he should be in the right position to award the try as the ball is touched down) but a question aimed at the logic, thinking and phrasing of what passes between referee and TMO.
Miles Harrison thinks diametrically the opposite to me and if a try is likely to have been scored and the referee thinks so, it can be given. This is not some angry polemic but an opinion that has been germinating for some time.
I am not claiming I am right but it is a long thought out position and I would be delighted to hear whether you broadly agree with the logic of only awarding tries when the referee or TMO is certain, or not.
Of course, I am always interested in our viewers and readers' other thoughts. A Lions captain not assured of a Test berth? I like it, in a year when no potential captains appear as absolute Test team certainties, it makes sense. Or do you think a strong personality the rest of the party would look up to is vital?
Stuart answers your emails...
Got a question for Stuart? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the feedback form below...
Hi Stuart, Last week you heaped praise on Wales after their Six Nations win, but how would you assess the state of domestic Welsh rugby?
STUART REPLIES: Gavin, Parlous. The international team delivered a world class performance but the foundations elsewhere are not as strong. Wales has to boost the game at the professional level and come up with an immediate strategy to combat the likelihood of two Welsh football clubs in the Premiership which will threaten already small crowds as well as young player development... and we have not even got onto Wales losing players overseas. In itself I am not averse to players moving but Wales lacks the depth of players for it not to take a toll on the regions (especially if the next generation coming through want to be Gareth Bale instead of Sam Warburton).
Hi Stuart, Who would be your Lions captain and starting centre pairing, and why? Thanks
STUART REPLIES: Mark, Undecided as to the captain especially if WG is toying with the idea of the skipper not necessarily being a Test player. Undecided as to the centre pairing as well, which gives a clue as to the man nearest to being my idea of the captain.
Hi Stuart, Do you think Gloucester can pinch the final play-off spot ahead of Northampton and, if not, would fifth place still be a solid effort after last season's struggles? Thanks.
STUART REPLIES: Gloucester can but need to rediscover some attacking quality. Friday night is critical with Harlequins coming to Gloucester on the back of a five day turnaround. Northampton plays Leicester the next day... can you ask me this question next Monday, please!! As for the effort, solid? yes. They have shown massively improved mental determination and look more like the Gloucester teams of yore. There is plenty of room for improvement but I think ND has probably laid the foundations for that improvement next season. I do not see Gloucester as title winners this year but expect them to be a useful Heineken outfit the next one.
Hi Stuart, What is your view on rugby sevens? Is it the perfect environment for young players to hone their technical and attacking skills?
STUART REPLIES: It is a threat to the 15 a side version because of the Olympics. Other, smaller countries that cannot compete at World Cup level could prioritise the miniature version of the sport. Imagine the sport minus Fiji, Samoa, Canade, Japan, USA. We need to develop 15s first and foremost and I think the IRB need a strategy in place to counter sevens. As for developing players, it teaches them to run into space rather than draw opponents and create space for others. It is a great game to kick back, have a few beers and a party if that is your scene and even greater for sprinters who might not fancy getting thwacked by eight hairy opposing forwards.