Friday, December 8, 2023

How does video refereeing work in rugby?

It’s one of the old advantages of rugby. An advancement that football forbade for a long time before also succumbing to it: video refereeing. Over the past fifteen years, the system has greatly evolved the sport, its rules and the way in which players behave on the field. From now on, nothing, or almost nothing, escapes the eye of the refereeing body, made up of a central referee, two linesmen and, therefore, a video referee, installed in front of numerous screens in a closed space .

The use of video refereeing is regulated by World Rugby, the supreme oval body which lays down the rules. Often, the public, players and even staff wonder why it is not used in certain situations. The call for video meets very specific criteria, of which here is a summary.

Who can request video arbitration?

Waving your arms in the stands or on the pitch doesn’t do much good. Only the refereeing quartet (central, touchline and video) can request the use of video refereeing. Teams do not have the possibility to call on it. The only possibility that a person outside the arbitration can influence a decision: the TV broadcaster. If after a test, it provides an image before the dismissal showing that a game infringement has taken place, the refereeing body can intervene.

In what situations can video arbitration be used?

We also often talk about situations in which it is possible to call on the TMO (Television Match Official, the TV match official, the unencrypted video referee, editor’s note). Here again, World Rugby has drawn up a list of match moments where its intervention is possible:

  • To check the touchdown of the ball in a test situation
  • To check player movement before flattening
  • To check whether a penalty try should be awarded or not
  • To check if the player has not gone into touch before flattening
  • To check if there is no offside situation during a ruck, maul or scrum in a trial situation
  • To check after a penalty, conversion or drop that the ball has passed between the posts
  • To check a potential offside situation in the last two phases before a try
  • To check a forward potential on the last two phases before a test
  • To check while ahead in the game, without a testing situation, whether the field umpires
  • For any situation relating to the sideline (alignment, throw, attacking or defending team)
  • To check an unfair, dangerous or anti-gaming situation

How far back can video refereeing go?

According to World Rugby rules, the referee can go back up to two phases of play, except for foul play where it is possible to analyze an older sequence, without limit. World Rugby defines a phase of play by an orderly scrum, a throw-in, a ruck or a maul. The phase of play is therefore the sequence between the scrum and the ruck, between two rucks, between a maul and a throw-in, etc.


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