Following the All Blacks’ dramatic one-point loss in the Rugby World Cup final to the Springboks, the officials, in particular TMO Tom Foley, have come under scrutiny for a perceived disruption to the flow of the game. A former All Black says the state of officiating is “disheartening” and feels changes need to be made.
While television match officials (TMOs) are nothing new, there has been an increasing trend in their interjections during games to pull play back and examine instances of foul play or infringement.
During the final, TMO Tom Foley voiced to referee Wayne Barnes on a number of occasions that he had seen something that warranted further examination. While these calls were correct by the letter of the law, many have criticised his involvement as being an interference and a disruption to the game.
Former All Black Pita Alatini, speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Jason Pine, said he feels rugby needs people as TMOs who have played at a high level and can appreciate moments that are out of players’ control.
“We need people in people in TMO who really understand the game, mate. We’ve got people that are running our game that really don’t know the enormity, the speed of the game.
“To me, the game that we love and enjoy is getting ruled by things that are out of control of those that are actually in the field.”
He highlighted the upgrading of All Black captain Sam Cane’s yellow card to red as an example of an official failing to understand the pace of the game at test level.
“Honestly, that tackle, you saw his arms were out, ready to embrace the tackle, but the fact that they ruled it down on textbook... it absolutely put a dampener on the final.”
Alatini even went so far as to say the upgrade was incorrect, saying he was unhappy with the decision.
“I really did feel for Sam Cane. I felt that wasn’t a frickin’ red card - it actually p***** me off, to be honest.”
The 17-test All Black told Pine as you enter the knockout stages of a World Cup, the intensity of play climbs even higher, and he feels you need officials in place that understand that.
“When you get into the quarters, semis and finals of the most prestigious competition in our game, I feel we are ruining it [with] all these guys going through the textbook. Honestly, it’s really disheartening.
“Talking to former players and people who follow the game, our game is getting so fickle and complex and soft in these ways. These decisions are being made from people outside. Sometimes they don’t know what it feels like to be in a position of this pressure and this magnitude.”
He went on to applaud the All Blacks for how they went about the rest of the final, knowing they would be playing the majority of the match with 14 men and without their captain.
“I’m actually so proud. As much as the disappointment of the loss - I thought the boys showed a lot of courage during this game tonight, knowing they were playing with 14 throughout most of the game.
“What it showed me was how connected these lads are. They lost their captain; everyone else fell into place.”
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