Carlos Spencer lashes TMO

Publish Date
Tuesday, 21 November 2023, 4:55PM

He was one of the most thrilling players to grace the field, but now rugby legend Carlos Spencer worries excitement is going out of the game.

An over-reliance on the television match official (TMO) has left Spencer feeling disillusioned with the game, a feeling shared by many fans, pundits and players.

World Rugby has come under heavy criticism since a World Cup final that featured several interjections from upstairs, in particular a try by All Black Aaron Smith that was ruled out despite TMO Tom Foley overstepping his jurisdiction in doing so.

The tournament itself suffered from a multitude of in-game delays due to constant delegation between the officiating crews.

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According to reports, World Rugby has acknowledged errors made in the final, which was won 12-11 by the Springboks, and apologised to the All Blacks.

Spencer said the influence of technology was not setting the game up for a bright future.

“It’s pretty disappointing when the game’s come to what it is, and there’s obviously been a lot of talks around TMOs, you know, ruining the game. I probably have to agree to be honest.”

Spencer led three of the most exciting sides in rugby history - the 1996, 1997 and 2003 Blues.

He won three Super Rugby titles and earned 44 All Blacks caps.

Known as “the King”, Spencer dazzled audiences with his banana kicks, no-look flick passes and searing speed.

However, he admitted the game has shifted significantly since his era.

Now coaching the Blues franchise’s women’s team in Super Rugby Aupiki, Spencer said referees needed to be given as much responsibility as possible.

“If we look at that World Cup final, I just thought the TMO had too much influence on the game. The referee is there for a reason.”

A host of prominent rugby icons have spoken out about referees being less empowered, having a detrimental effect on the game’s flow, including legendary whistle-blower Nigel Owens.

“We have got to be mindful of where the game is heading around these TMOs and our referees. I just think the way it’s going at the moment is you’re not putting their game, I suppose, in a bright future for the young kids wanting to play the game.”

An on-field innovator, Spencer hoped the powers that be could be as bold and help save rugby from the clutches of the bunker.

“We want to make the game as exciting as possible and I think we’ve lost it over the years.”

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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