TMO heard appearing to not review incident flagged by TV pundit Healey

<span>Owen Farrell of Saracens gives his team instructions during the Premiership win over Harlequins.</span><span>Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images</span>
Owen Farrell of Saracens gives his team instructions during the Premiership win over Harlequins.Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

The Rugby Football Union says there will be a review into the incident on Saturday during the Saracens v Harlequins game in which a possible case of foul play was ignored by match officials on the bizarre grounds that the TV pundit Austin Healey had spotted it first.

Healey had identified a knee-slide clearout on Owen Farrell by the Quins captain, Stephan Lewies, in the latter stages of Sarries’ 52-7 victory and suggested on-air “it could be really interesting” to see exactly where Farrell had been struck.

Related: Slick Saracens blow away Harlequins in front of bumper crowd at Tottenham

Instead of studying the replay for potential foul play, however, the television match official Stuart Terheege appeared to suggest to the referee Christophe Ridley that they could not be seen to be influenced by the television coverage.

The broadcast comments – “Yeah, mate, the problem I have got now is that it looks like Austin has instigated it, because we’re late, so I don’t want to talk about it, OK?” – were picked up by the officials’ ‘hot mic’ and would appear to contradict the official stance that TMOs do not hear TV commentary which could sway their decisions.

With Lewies already on a yellow card, the episode has also been highlighted by the player welfare pressure group Progressive Rugby. “Whatever the reason, it is clear a decision has been taken to ignore foul, reckless or dangerous play because of concern that it had been highlighted by a pundit,” said Professor John Fairclough on behalf of Progressive Rugby. “This is hugely concerning and a clear dereliction of a match official’s duty to ensure player safety. An explanation should be sought as a matter of urgency.”

Healey later posted on social media his belief that the situation could and should have been avoided. “Think the TMO has had better days looks like ego got in the way of ruling on foul play,” the former England international wrote on X.

The RFU, meanwhile, said it would look into the matter further. “The RFU conducts regular reviews following all games that take place, as will be the case for Saracens v Harlequins,” read an RFU statement.