The 2013 Super Rugby season is now well underway, and SANZAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray has been happy with how the new trial with the Television Match Official has begun and how the scrums are faring.
Both of these are undergoing trial adaptations in Super Rugby.
The scrum has had a change from a four-call setting of the scrum to three calls and an instruction to the referees to ensure stability before setting.
Bray is happy with the scrum improvement. There is nearly an 80 percent success rate with first hit scrum completion, up from the 65 percent benchmark set throughout the 2012 season.
As a consequence it is allowing the ball to be in play longer, another key benchmark, while decreasing the overall number of penalties in the game. This was allow the game to be a better spectacle and hence product.
Bray said: "(We have a) better flow, better scrums. (That results in) fewer penalties as an outcome, and so you're getting a smaller total of penalties per game. Those are really encouraging signs.
"We're almost up to 80 percent of our scrums getting the ball in, ball out which is phenomenal.
"How much that's got to do with getting rid of the four-step call is debatable but it's definitely had a positive impact. We've got a lot more stability on the hit. That takes two things. It takes the referee controlling the call and it takes the players being a lot more positive. That's an incredible statistic across the competition at this early stage."
The powers of the TMO have been extended in Super Rugby this year to allow the TMO to be consulted on "clear and obvious" infringements within two phases (ruck or maul) in the lead-up to a try. The TMO may also be asked about possible foul play in the field of play, not just in in-goal.
Bray is happy with the number of referrals to the TMO - not too many of them, not taking too much time but getting meaningful results while the referee is still the man in charge, increases referee confidence and presenting an opportunity to make the laws better kwon. The extended use of the TMO has support from the coaches.
Bray was also happy about the referee application of the Big Three - tackle, scrum and space.
At the tackle, the tackler is required to roll away from, not towards, the receiver (halfback), the tackler assist must clearly release the tackled player and taking out defenders in front of the ball should be closely monitored. Sealing off is to be penalised when the opportunity exists for a defender to be in the position to contest for the ball.
The scrum is to be stable before Set is called, the tighthead is to hit straight and the loosehead up and bound. To wheel legally the team doing the wheel must first get forward momentum.
The two aspects of space are controlling players in front of a kicker and managing rucks.
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