Tietjens & Co want hi-tech help for refs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 March, 2010, 12:00am

Players and officials of top sides at the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens called on the IRB to use technology and bring in a dedicated panel of referees to reduce controversial decisions which they say is spoiling the game.

As the stakes get higher - now that sevens is in the Olympics - the push for a more streamlined system has grown. Leading the chorus on the eve of the world's most prestigious tournament are England captain Ben Gollings, New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens, his US counterpart Al Caravelli and Fiji manager Jope Tuivanuavou.

'As long as it doesn't delay the game too much, I'm all for technology being used to look at a close call,' Gollings said. 'I would welcome that.'

Tietjens said: 'It would be good if technology is used. A bad decision can cost a team hugely, for in sevens there is no time to pull it back. Everyone, from the referee to the player, is looking for the perfect game, so why not use it?'

New Zealand were baffled by the high penalty count against them at the Adelaide Sevens last weekend - giving away a lopsided 22, conceding six to none in the quarter-final loss against Samoa - and have raised their concerns before the action begins today.

Tietjens refused to confirm whether he had specifically raised the issue with match officials in Hong Kong, but admitted: 'we will have to look at our discipline.' But he concurred that his team hadn't got the rub of the green.

The suggestion that sevens also bring in a panel of professional referees - similar to cricket's elite panel of umpires - was met favourably by teams fed up with poor calls.

At present, most rugby unions other than Hong Kong's regard sevens as an area where their inexperienced referees can gain valuable match time and knowledge.

Gollings, who will be appearing for the eighth time in Hong Kong this weekend, said: 'This is an area the IRB should look at seriously. It would be good to have specialist referees for sevens. That experience is invaluable.'

High-flying US, who reached their first Cup final ever in Adelaide, are also pro-technology with coach Caravelli all for it.

'It would be great,' Caravelli said. 'All that the referee needs to do is look at the big screen on the ground, and make up his mind in 20 seconds. If he can't, the decision stands. This will in fact speed up the game.'

At the Adelaide Sevens, a number of contentious decisions in crunch Cup games were considered to have swung games. Both New Zealand and Fiji were on the receiving end of controversial calls, which saw them lose to Samoa and Australia respectively in the quarter-finals.

Tuivanuavou said yesterday: 'There was a knock-on, but the try was granted to Australia and that cost us victory. It was so obvious that it was a mistake, but the score stood. Fiji would welcome technology being used.

'One day you are the victim, the next time you benefit. It would be better and fairer for all teams if a system which could cut down on mistakes was brought into use.'

IRB Sevens World Series tournament director Beth Coalter said the use of technology was an issue which would have to be carefully looked at, but warned that the 'timing' of making a ruling on any contentious issue would be a crucial factor.

'We will be looking at all these issues at the end of the season. Everyone wants consistency,' she said.