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What Is the TMO (Television Match Official) in Rugby?

A crowded stadium during a daytime soccer match.

Have you ever watched a rugby match and wondered how officials make such accurate decisions? The secret weapon is the TMO, or Television Match Official, with their high-tech Hawk-Eye system.

This article will unveil the technology and people behind those crucial calls that shape the game. Prepare to discover the eye in the sky of rugby!

Key Takeaways

  • The TMO, equipped with Hawk-Eye and camera feeds, aids the on-field referee in making informed decisions during rugby matches, ensuring fair play.
  • Since its introduction, the TMO’s role has expanded to include reviewing foul play and monitoring if players are in touch before scoring a try.
  • Controversies surrounding the TMO involve delays in decision – making and instances of referee assaults that impede game flow and raise safety concerns.
  • The use of technology in sports officiating is growing, with the TMO playing an essential part in providing accurate calls through replays and multiple angles.
  • With continuous advancements in technology, the future of the TMO appears secure as it becomes increasingly vital for precision and fairness within rugby games.

History of TMO in Rugby

The role of the Television Match Official in rugby didn’t always exist. Before technology took its place on the sidelines, referees and touch judges made all game decisions in real time, without any video assistance.

TMOs were introduced to bring more accuracy to refereeing, especially for moments that could change the outcome of a game. Initially, their use was limited; they could only intervene in situations related to scoring a try or kick at goal.

Over time, rugby authorities expanded the TMO’s powers. Now they can cover foul play incidents and help determine if a player is in touch before grounding the ball for a try. The introduction of Hawk-Eye further empowered TMOs by providing multiple camera angles and high-definition replays.

These tools ensure that crucial match officiating decisions are supported by visual evidence, making games fairer and helping uphold the integrity of this fast-paced sport.

As Rugby Union and Rugby League embraced these changes, fans saw how effectively TMOs could influence tight matches with their decisionmaking skills. Crucial calls once solely based on human judgment now had technological backing thanks to video review from different perspectives around the pitch—whether it be confirming tries or spotting infringements unseen by officials on-field.

Despite some resistance at first from parts of the rugby community who feared it would interrupt the flow of play, most now agree that having a ‘video referee’ has been beneficial for rugby overall.

Equipment Used by TMO

The TMO in rugby uses mandatory equipment such as monitors and communication devices to review decisions. Other common equipment includes cameras, microphones, and video replay systems.

Mandatory equipment

The TMO, also known as the Television Match Official in rugby, requires specific equipment to perform their duties effectively. This includes:

  1. A suite of cameras placed around the field capturing different angles and close-ups.
  2. The Hawk-Eye system, providing multiple views and replays for accurate decision-making.
  3. Communication devices enabling direct contact with the on – field referee and assistant referees.
  4. A dedicated video review monitor, allowing detailed analysis of contentious incidents.

Other common equipment

  1. High – definition monitors are used to review different game aspects and analyse incidents in detail.
  2. Communication devices such as headsets and microphones facilitate quick and clear communication with on-field officials during decision-making processes.
  3. Multiple camera screens displaying various angles of the match action provide comprehensive coverage for the TMO to assess and deliberate on crucial decisions.
  4. A control panel allows the TMO to navigate through different camera feeds, replays, and technical tools efficiently.
  5. Recording devices enable the TMO to capture important moments accurately for further analysis if needed.

Positions and Responsibilities within TMO

The TMO involves various positions and responsibilities, including the referee, touch judge/assistant referee, substitution controller, timekeeper, and in-goal judge. Each plays a crucial role in ensuring fair play and accurate decision-making during rugby matches.


The referee is the primary decision-maker on the field, and they have the authority to consult with the TMO when necessary. They decide when to refer a decision to the TMO for further review based on their judgment and understanding of the game’s dynamics.

The referee makes final decisions based on information provided by the TMO, balancing their own judgment with technological assistance.

Touch judges/Assistant referees support them in making crucial calls during play, helping maintain fairness and accuracy in match officiating. The roles work together cohesively as part of a team effort to ensure that matches are officiated with integrity and precision.

With each member fulfilling their specific role, effective communication between all officials enhances the overall refereeing process.

Touch judge/Assistant referee

The touch judge, also known as the assistant referee, is responsible for assisting the match referee by making decisions on certain incidents. Positioned along the touchline, they help with offside and touch-line decisions.

The assistant referee plays a key role in monitoring foul play and misconduct, providing valuable support to ensure fair play on the field.

Now let’s delve into the role of Substitution Controller within TMO operations.

Substitution controller

The substitution controller manages the official record of player substitutions during a rugby match. They maintain accurate information about players coming on and off the field, ensuring that teams adhere to regulations regarding substitutions.

The substitution controller communicates with the referee to verify and note down every change made by both teams, playing a crucial role in maintaining fair play and order on the field.

Working alongside the TMO and other match officials, the substitution controller ensures that any changes are accurately recorded and communicated to all relevant parties. This role is essential in upholding fair play within the game, as it helps prevent any misunderstandings or confusion around player substitutions, contributing to a smooth-running match according to rugby regulations.


The timekeeper, stationed at a desk with a monitor and clock, is responsible for recording the match duration accurately. They take note of stoppages in play and ensure that the game runs within its allocated time slot.

The timekeeper communicates with the on-field referee and TMO to present precise timings throughout the match, enabling fair and regulated gameplay.

Using a series of instant replays, they assist in determining accurate durations for any stoppages or disruptions that occur during gameplay. This includes substitutions, injuries, and other incidents requiring assessment by match officials.

In-goal judge

The in-goal judge is responsible for closely monitoring the area behind each goal line. They play a key role in determining whether a try has been scored based on their clear view of the ball and player’s grounding within the in-goal area.

With access to specific camera angles, the in-goal judge can provide valuable insights to the match officials, contributing to accurate decision-making on try-scoring situations. This position adds an extra layer of precision to the game, ensuring that tries are either confirmed or disallowed with utmost fairness and accuracy.

Importance of TMO in Rugby

TMO plays a critical role in ensuring fair play and accuracy in decisions, using technology to uphold the integrity of the game. Its presence reflects the increasing use of technology in modern sports officiating.

Ensuring fair play and accuracy in decisions

The TMO ensures fair play and accuracy in decisions by providing the on-field referee with additional information to make well-informed calls. With access to different camera angles and Hawk-Eye technology, the TMO assists in determining whether a try has been scored, checking for foul play, or reviewing potential infringements.

This helps uphold the integrity of the game and reduces errors in crucial match decisions.

Through their role as an official review system, the TMO plays a vital part in maintaining fairness during matches while ensuring that accurate rulings are made based on evidence from various perspectives.

Use of technology in modern sports

To ensure fair play and accuracy in decisions, modern sports have embraced the use of technology. In rugby, the introduction of the Television Match Official (TMO) exemplifies this trend.

By utilising systems like Hawk-Eye and having access to multiple camera angles, the TMO is equipped to make informed decisions that contribute to fair outcomes on the field. This integration of technology has become indispensable in modern sports officiating, enabling referees and match officials to uphold the integrity of the game while ensuring that pivotal moments are accurately adjudicated.

Controversies Involving TMO

Controversies around the TMO in rugby include criticism of long delays in decision-making and instances of referee assaults. These issues have sparked debate within the rugby community about the role and effectiveness of the TMO in modern rugby.

Criticism of long delays in decision-making

Critics argue that the use of TMO technology often leads to prolonged decision-making processes, interrupting the flow of the game. The extensive review and consultation between on-field officials and the TMO can result in frustratingly lengthy delays before a decision is made.

This not only impacts the momentum of the match but also tests the patience of players, coaching staff, and fans alike. Calls have been made for a more efficient system that maintains fairness without causing excessive stoppages in play.

Moving forward to “Referee assaults,” it’s crucial to understand..

Referee assaults

Following the criticism of long delays in decision-making, another issue that has sparked controversy involves referee assaults. Rugby has seen instances where match officials have faced physical aggression from players or spectators due to contentious decisions made during a game.

These incidents not only pose a threat to the safety of referees but also raise concerns about sportsmanship and respect for match officials. Referee assaults highlight the need for stricter measures to protect the integrity and authority of rugby officials, ensuring that they can perform their duties without fear of violence or intimidation.

The TMO is positioned as an essential component in minimising on-field controversies by providing evidence-based support for fair and accurate officiating decisions within rugby matches.

Conclusion: Future of TMO in Rugby.

The future of TMO in rugby looks promising owing to its integral role in aiding fair play and decision-making. With advanced technology at their disposal, the TMO ensures accurate calls and upholds the integrity of the game.

As discussions continue on their effectiveness, it is evident that the TMO has revolutionised match officiating and will likely remain a crucial asset in modern rugby. Embracing video assistant referee technology has improved on-field decisions, establishing the TMO as an essential element for ensuring fairness and accuracy during matches.

Despite some controversies, the TMO’s significance in maintaining fairness within rugby remains undeniable.


1. What does TMO stand for in rugby?

TMO in rugby stands for Television Match Official – they’re the video referee who helps with tough calls during a game using instant replay and video technology.

2. How does the TMO support on-field referees?

The TMO provides backup to the on-field referees by reviewing footage and offering clarity for decision-making, ensuring match analysis is accurate and fair.

3. Can the TMO make decisions during a rugby match?

Yes, the TMO assists with important match decisions by analysing video replays, which helps uphold rugby rules and supports accurate officiating.

4. When do referees consult the TMO in a game?

Referees call on the TMO during critical moments that need more review like scoring plays or possible rule infractions to make sure their decisions are spot-on.

5. Is Rugby’s use of a Television Match Official similar to VAR in football?

Absolutely! Like Video Assistant Referee (VAR) used in football, Rugby’s TMO uses video tech to check referee’s on-field choices making sure they get it right.

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