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Top League to introduce new officiating system this season

Kyodo

When the Top League kicks off its 12th season on Friday, there will be a slight change in the officiating as the league implements a television match official system.

The introduction of a TMO system is intended to bring Japan in line with the world standard as the nation builds toward hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019. The extra official will have four to five camera angles with which to assist the on-field officials in enforcing the rules and clarifying difficult decisions.

Ricoh Black Rams captain Daisuke Komatsu welcomed the change and said Japan has a lot of catching up to do before 2019.

“I think it (the TMO) is a great thing,” he told Kyodo News earlier this week at the Top League’s launch. “We need to move closer to the world standard. Whichever way you look at it, rugby overseas has made great strides and Japan needs to catch up. It is a great challenge.

“Speaking as a player, I feel some responsibility when it comes to meeting this challenge. This is not just about skills on the pitch, though. It’s also about the quality of the venues and the fan base. These are all areas where we need to catch up.”

The league’s TMO system, which is sponsored by the Japan agent of Italian mattress maker Magniflex, will be employed at every league game as well in the playoffs, wildcard tournament, relegation games and in all nine games of the national rugby championship.

Another new look, at least for the first three rounds of the first stage, will be referee Garratt Williamson, a New Zealander who has officiated at 32 Super Rugby matches as well as two test matches. The 43-year-old has been brought in to interact with the league’s Japanese referees as a way of raising the Top League’s refereeing standard.

In addition, the Top League has secured a corporate sponsor for its playoff tournament, which this season will be known as the Lixil Cup.