AVIVA PREMIERSHIP Rugby has been chosen by the International Rugby Board (IRB) to trial two new, and significant, changes to rugby union this season, one involving the Television Match Official and the other a system of Pitch Side Concussion Assessment for players.
Professional rugby union in England is championing the use of greater video technology and putting player welfare at the top of the agenda and the trial will start with the London Double Header at Twickenham Stadium on September 1, when London Wasps take on Harlequins and Saracens host London Irish.
The trials have been developed by the IRB over the past six months in collaboration with Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union and form part of a wider strategy devised by the IRB aimed at player welfare and enhancing the role of the TMO.
“We have a reputation for innovation and this is another example of how both Premiership Rugby and the RFU is the forefront of the game’s development,” said Phil Winstanley, Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby.
“We volunteered to be involved in both trials. The TMO trial in live televised games allows us to maintain the integrity of our competition by ensuring that the match officials are given the utmost support in getting crucial decisions right. We are extremely mindful about ensuring that we achieve a balance between protecting the integrity of the game and impacting on the dynamic nature of our sport by creating too many stoppages in play. This will be closely managed, with a thorough research programme undertaken by Premiership Rugby and the RFU.
“The Pitch Side Concussion Assessment trial allows medical teams more time and a better environment to assess head injuries and to make player centred decisions.”
RFU Professional Rugby Director Rob Andrew said: “Once again the professional game in England is a global leader in game management and player welfare and these trials will I am sure benefit the game in all its aspects – playing, coaching, officiating and spectating. We are delighted that the IRB has sanctioned these trials which will be thoroughly reviewed and analysed at the end of the season to measure the wider impact on our game.”
The new TMO protocol will also be trialled in South Africa’s premier domestic tournament, the Currie Cup, and IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “I would like to thank the RFU, SARU and PRL for enabling these trials to take place in two prestigious, elite competitions and all of our Unions for their commitment to continually reviewing this area of the Game in order that we can promote improved accuracy of decision-making in Rugby.”