Rugby Union is not my sport, but as a fan of team sports this particular Rugby World Cup is going very well – with epic encounters, high-quality action, and several shocks. In particular, the improvement of the “Tier 2” teams is a good sign for the global game.
However, I have found my enjoyment somewhat spoiled by the constant referring of decisions to the “TMO” (the “fourth referee” based in the stands with a TV screen). The problem is not that we do not want to see the correct decisions; it is, of course, perfectly apt to use technology to ensure the correct calls are made. The problem is that the excitement of a thrilling try is sharply reduced by a seemingly interminable wait for the decision from “upstairs”. As a result, some games are exceeding 100 minutes in on-field playing time.
It seems to me that there is a fairly obvious solution, which could be borrowed more or less from American Football or even Lawn Tennis. Instead of the referee “passing the decision upstairs”, each team could have a certain number of “challenges” (say, three each half). If the captain of the defending side felt there was any question of a foot in touch or a forward pass (or whatever), he could challenge the ruling and have it referred to the “TMO”; likewise the attacking side, in some instances, could appeal the disallowing of a try or even make a case for a penalty or penalty try in certain instances.
This would have the advantage of ensuring the correct decision was made when it really counts; but it would also avoid the game being slowed down so much. Furthermore, celebrating the epic moments – such as Wales’ equalising try nine days ago – would not be delayed by the agonising wait for the man upstairs!