The 2023 Rugby World Cup will see a revamp of how refereeing decisions are made on the field of play, with the introduction of the TMO Bunker for the first time in the tournament.
The introduction of the TMO Bunker to the Rugby World Cup follows a number of trial periods during some of last year's tournaments, including the Summer Nations Series and Rugby Championship.
What Is Rugby's TMO Bunker?
Rugby's TMO Bunker was designed to enhance decision-making accuracy and ensure smooth gameplay, with the system already making waves in pre-tournament matches.
The bunker is an area away from the crowds and other interference such as players. It will be occupied by Foul Play Review Officials. For the duration of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, it will be located at the International Broadcast Centre in Paris.
What is the Foul Play Review Official's role?
The Foul Play Review Official (FRPO) will be on hand to scrutinize dubious foul play incidents that aren't clear-cut red card offences.
Think of it as a modern-day 'sin bin' where decisions are meticulously reviewed. Players must sit on a “naughty step” as the FRPO decides if the player returns to the field of play.
It is essentially the VAR of the Rugby World.
How does the process work?
Staying true to Rugby tradition, the on-field referee is and will remain the primary decision-maker during each match, but they will now have the option/authority to refer an incident to the 'bunker' if they wish for a second opinion.
This means that if an incident occurs where the referee alongside the television match official (TMO) decides to warrant/show a player a yellow card and the incident is considered severe enough that a red card might be the better option, the referee has the authority to show the player a yellow card and then proceed to cross their forearms in an 'X' shape to indicate their want for a TMO Bunker review.
Once the referee has indicated their desire for a TMO Bunker review, the FRPO will have eight minutes to asses the incident and come to a conclusion on the justified punishment for the player.
The FRPO will have access to advanced HawkEye camera technology to help them decide whether to stick with a yellow card or upgrade the card to a red.
Example of Rugby's TMO Bunker
A recent example of how Rugby's TMO Bunker works was witnessed in the England v Wales match in August.
England's captain Owen Farrell’s yellow card was upgraded to red card after referee Nika Amashukeli placed the incident on review and asked for the bunker to review the foul.