Prominent sports technology company Hawkeye are in discussions with the International Rugby Board about providing a replacement to the controversial television match official system (TMO) ahead of the 2015 World Cup.
Hawkeye, which already operates goal-line systems in football and video technology in Australian rules football, are confident their systems can increase the speed of decision-making during rugby matches significantly. The company are also in talks with Premiership Rugby Ltd, the umbrella body for top-flight clubs in England.
The discussions come at a key time for the sport. Edward Griffiths, the Saracens chief executive, described TMO as "a shambles" following the recent Aviva Premiership final, when it took a full four minutes to award Northampton Saints' winning try. Two tries were also disallowed.
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The IRB is conducting a worldwide trial of TMO which comes to an end in August. If Hawkeye can convince the organisation that their system is worth paying a higher fee for then it would be expected to be in place for the 2015 World Cup in England.
Paul Hawkins, founder of Hawkeye, confirmed talks were in progress. "Our system is a much cleverer way of looking at incidents; in Aussie rules, we have halved the average time for decisions to be made," he said. "We are in conversation with Premiership Rugby and the IRB. It would be great if we were there for the World Cup."
The most significant issue is likely to be over cost, a factor which would seem most relevant for Premiership Rugby, as the Hawkeye system would be more expensive than the TMO system which just uses the existing TV feeds. The league is also adamant that the decisions made with TMO at the final on Saturday were proved to be correct.
"We are constantly looking at ways to improve the TMO process to help our match officials and although we have spoken to Hawkeye we have no plans to use it at the moment," said a Premiership Rugby spokesperson.