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Why team analysts could make the best TMOs

Television Match Officials, like referees, are not exactly the flavour of the month.

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Often fans will blast referees and TMOs as ‘incompetent’ or ‘biased’ when calls go against their teams.

However, Tappe Henning, the United Rugby Championship’s Head of Match Officials, said the skillset required to be a good TMO is not as unchallenging as most sitting room pundits believe.

Henning, speaking at a media round table in the build-up to this coming weekend’s URC quarterfinals, made it clear that “knowledge” of the game and decision-making plays a huge part in the profile of a TMO.

That is why so many professional players become referees – the likes of Glen Jackson, Nic Berry, Karl Dickson and Andrew Brace.

“That game background – as a player at a professional level – serves them very well,” Henning said.

“The same applies to the TMO environment,” he said, adding: “The background of refereeing, the understanding of laws, studying the laws in an environment of decision-making is hugely important in laying the base for a TMO.”

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He said a good TMO does not have to be a former international referee.

Henning used Human Kriek, the Senior Performance Analyst at Stormers and Western Province as an example of a team official that will make a good TMO.

“He is involved in a high-performance environment and I don’t think Human has refereed a game in his life, but when he gives me feedback – and it goes to a lot of analysts, like the Bulls and Munster – they are spot on.

“They know the game, they understand the game, they understand what they are looking at on a monitor and ask questions about it.

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“These analysts are very good.

“Those are the skillsets that are also required for a [good] TMO.

“It is not a ‘must have’ to be a former international referee.

“It requires probably the same skillsets that an analyst has to look at the game and give feedback to coaches and players.”

(Article continues below Tappe Henning interview …)

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Henning added that being a TMO is not as perspicuous as some fans would have you believe.

The URC refereeing boss made it unambiguous that to be a TMO requires a “very different skillset” from being a referee.

“You need to be able to ‘interpret’ what you see on a screen and relay that to a decision-making process,” he told a media round table in the build-up to this coming weekend’s quarterfinals.

“In the refereeing environment, it is what the referee experiences on the field, with the crown, with the pressure and understanding the environment.

“That is a totally different skillset,” he added.

He said some referees don’t enjoy being TMOs, because they don’t have the skillset for that.

“We try to find the people with the right skillsets and equip them and develop their skills specifically for the role of a TMO.

“The knowledge of the game and the knowledge of decision-making is hugely important and overlaps in that role.”

He says rotating referees and TMOs are not ideal in rugby, because match officials can carry baggage from one week into the next into a different role.

“We need to find the right people with the right skillset for the TMO role.”

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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