Dave Rennie fears referees won't make calls

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 20/01/2013
Dave Rennie
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ
Dave Rennie

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Widening of the television match official powers is sure to cause widespread debate when Super Rugby kicks off next month.

After testing in South Africa and England, the International Rugby Board confirmed last year's report in the Sunday Star-Times that the TMO's jurisdiction would expand.

The video referee can now intervene during a match if acts of foul play are missed, and review two phases before a try is scored. Previously, the TMO could only rule in the act of scoring.

Opinion is divided whether broadening the use of technology, which extends to Super Rugby, the June tests, British and Irish Lions tour of Australia, Rugby Championship and the next northern hemisphere season, is a positive move for the game.

The "global trial" is in place until May next year.

It will then be reviewed along with the five-second ruck clearance and scrum engagement laws before the World Cup.

In the wake of the Andrew Hore incident in Cardiff, where the All Blacks hooker knocked out Welsh lock Bradley Davis from behind, most agree the TMO should play a role in stamping out foul play and in identifying on-field culprits.

The jury is out, however, on how the added influence may affect the spectacle.

Super Rugby operators Sanzar chief executive Greg Peters was initially sceptical about the intrusive delays it might cause but has since come around to the idea.

"Our biggest concern was around fan confusion," Peters said.

"We didn't want to create a situation where the protocols were too far-reaching and interrupting the game unduly.

"The statistics to come out of the Currie Cup trial would suggest it is about the right number of phases."

Not everyone is convinced.

There are also concerns referees will now be more hesitant to make on-field decisions, causing further interruptions.

"Personally, it's probably too much," Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said.

"One phase is probably the right way to go. Like everyone, we want the right decision made but we don't want to get to the stage where the referee doesn't make any decisions because we've got to go back and look at everything.

"I'm more concerned about them being able to make decisions close to the line. There's a danger you stand around watching replays all day rather than playing footy.

"I don't want a game of video footy where we spend too much time staring at the big screen."

Sanzar referees gather in Sydney next week as swift efforts are made to bring them up to speed in time for the all-Australian first round, starting on February 15.

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