World Rugby open to NRL-style bunker as TMO decisions frustrate

Nigel Owens (R) looks to the big screen during last year's Rugby World Cup. Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Rugby has borrowed many things from its 13-man spin-off over the years and it seems rugby league's latest development, the video-replay bunker, has also worked its way onto the World Rugby radar.

While technology and the use of the Television Match Official continue to cloud this year's Super Rugby season, the NRL's new bunker set-up has largely been hailed as an overwhelming success.

The gloss may have come off the NRL procedure a little in round three, with Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan questioning some of the decisions from Monday night's loss to Manly; but on the whole a greater number of reviewed decisions have proved correct while the time to make a call has been reduced significantly.

Super Rugby, meanwhile, continues to battle inconsistencies from game to game while fans can sometimes wait for more than two minutes for a decision to be handed down, as was the case in at the conclusion of the Stormers-Brumbies clash on Saturday night. The NRL's bunker, meanwhile, takes fans at home into the decision-making process and displays each of the angles used to make the call.

Speaking in direct reference to the Rugby World Cup, where TMO decisions are made in conjunction with the referee via stadium big screens and Hawk-Eye technology, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper told ESPN the governing body was "open to anything".

"Yes I know about the bunker and so on, and it depends on where you want to put your replays and so on," Gosper told ESPN when asked about the NRL's latest piece of technology.

"And at the moment ours [replays] are attached to the event that they're at and so on.

"I mean we can consider all sorts of things and nothing is out of the question. We're three-and-a-half years away from Rugby World Cup 2019; we'll do what is the most efficient way to manage our TMO.

"We've invested a lot in the Hawk-Eye technology, several million pounds to get the Hawk-Eye technology up to date. The World Cup is a $US 1 billion-turnover event -- or it was in London, it probably won't be that big in Japan -- but we'll do what's best for the efficiency of the workings of the TMO and any other technology."

One of the bunker's biggest attractions is the reduction in the number of people involved in making decisions, currently two in the NRL, thus removing the chance of inconsistency in terms of individual rule interpretations.

That has certainly been an issue in Super Rugby this season, particularly around the grounding of the ball, while the variances in the question the TMO is asked by a referee - either "try or no try" or "can you give me a reason not to award the try" - can also affect the final outcome as happened early on in the Crusaders' thrashing of the Kings.

Any decision on the prospect of a Super Rugby "Bunker" would have to come from ruling body SANZAAR, a proposition somewhat tougher due to the competition's geographical spread. But a reduction in terms of the time taken to make a decision must, at the very least, seem appealing; something Gosper said improved as last year's Rugby World Cup progressed.

"The TMOs began a bit slowly; the management, whether it be by the [TV] producers and the interaction with the referees, was perhaps not as quick as we'd have liked and some of the times of the consultation were a bit long early on," Gosper told ESPN.

"But it did move quickly down in terms of timing and I think by the end of the tournament they'd got hold of it very well. And I think the Hawk-Eye, multi-screen, visualisation and so on was very successful.

"Again, like in everything in the World Cup afterwards, we will absolutely look at every aspect of the World Cup; from the discipline, the judicial discipline, side; the TMO; the laws of the game and so on; and we're in that process [now].

"The working group looking at TMO is just seeing if that can be improved in any way.

"It's the old story; you know when you're using TMO in one part of the tournament they're saying there's too much of it, and then at the end of it there's maybe a call that's a little bit debatable, and then they're saying why aren't you using more of it?

"So you've got to strike a balance and I think towards the end of the tournament we got there, but we'll keep investigating to see if our protocols can be improved even further."