Video (with comparisons): Was Farrell’s Tackle Legal?

Owen Farrell

The main talking point after the game on Saturday was whether Owen Farrell’s tackle on Andre Esterhuizen was legal.

Farrell made a huge hit on the Springbok centre with the clock in the red, and the decision on whether or not the challenge was worthy of a penalty ultimately decided the game. Granted, Handre Pollard would have had to kick the penalty to win, but it was well within range.

Here is the incident:

I think this is worthy of a penalty at least, because he has led with the shoulder with considerable force, without sufficient attempt to wrap the arms around the player.

At any other point in the game, I believe the penalty would have been awarded, but with the clock red after a tense Test at Twickenham, the officials knew that it would decide the outcome of the match, and with just a small element of doubt, they chose the safer option.

Given the current clampdown on dangerous tackling, and in light of other incidents such as Danny Cipriani’s red card against Munster, this is at least a penalty offence, but I can also see why it wasn’t given in the context of the match.

For comparison, I have dug out a few notable incidents from the recent past.

Danny Cipriani on Rory Scannell – red card and 3-week ban

James Haskell on Jamie Roberts – red cad and 4-week ban

Jerome Kaino on Jamie Roberts – yellow card and 5-week ban

Ofa Tu’ungafasi on Remy Grosso – penalty, cited but dismissed

Taniela Tupou on Damian Willemse – no penalty, cited and dismissed with no punishment

Are there any other incidents that should be included here for comparison?

What do you think of the Farrell tackle?

81 thoughts on “Video (with comparisons): Was Farrell’s Tackle Legal?

  1. Not really sure whether any of these are suitable comparisons; the reason behind most of these leading to citings is contact with the head, not the wrapping of arms. Grosso’s in particular was a nasty one considering he left with a broken jaw, I was surprised that one wasn’t followed up with a ban.
    Given my rose tinted perspective it is hard to be fully objective but Farrells tackle certainly doesn’t deserve a retrospective ban, due to the lack of contact to the head. I think he was lucky to escape without being penalised given the lead with the shoulder. There is an attempt at a wrap but given the speed and force the players come together this doesn’t materialise and I think this is what saves him. If his non leading arm hand been held in to his body to brace for impact it would have been a lot clearer cut. As such the referee could not have been certain a no wrap tackle had taken place.




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    1. It’s just down to pure luck there wasn’t any head contact. If AE had ducked into the tackle, slipped or was just a bit shorter this would have been a red. Nothing to do with OF trying to wrap his arms. He went in to tackle hard and He was lucky not to be punished.




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      1. Doesn’t matter. If there’s no head contact, there’s no head contact.
        Any number of perfectly fine tackles in a game *could* be penalised for head contact if the tackled player slips, or was shorter or ducked into it. Not entitrely sure of your point here.
        Was he lucky? Not in terms of the legality of the tackle. The tackle has now been looked at by 3 separate officials.
        Was he lucky in terms of the ref? Sure, it could well have been a different result with a different ref. But that highlights a problem with the consistency of refereeing, not this tackle




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        1. Jake, you’re in denial by changing the subject. No, hardness, as you well know, isn’t the issue. Illegal shoulder charging, without use if the arms, is however.




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          1. On the contrary Don, I was responding to Ten Tons mention of hard tackling. Maybe if you took your AB-tinted specs off and read the comments, before assuming AB vitriol/English partisanship, then we might have more constructive debates.




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            1. IYO Jake. You seem defensive as well as subjective & somewhat pompous in yr response. Might have been useful to have used TTD’s moniker for clarity. Maybe nxt time? As for my AB specs, I don’t have a personal axe here being non Saffa, English. However, if, as you appear, to condone Farrell’s ‘hard’ ‘tackling’ illegality, perhaps it’s who could discard his Red Rose coloured bins. Besides if you post here, you know that you may elicit responses, so you needn’t get so sniffy about this, or if there’s too much heat, you can always vacate the kitchen. Cheers.




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        2. Nor was there any attempt whatsoever to use the arms Jake. Spineless refereeing in front of a crowd that he knew would be incensed if he made the brave (correct) decision to award a penalty.
          This was NOT a tackle, it was a shoulder charge.




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  2. My first thought is – poor Jamie Roberts!
    Secondly, there is a basic difference between Farrell’s tackle and every one of the tackles above (including the Tu’ungafasi and Tupou ones).
    Farrell’s tackle did not involve Esterhuizen’s head.
    So once you’ve established that, the only question is whether he used his arms in the tackle. As we can see from the still photo above, one arm was up to wrap, the other not. Whether or not both would have been up had Esterhuizen not been at such pace or leading with his forearms to bounce Farrell off we cannot know.
    What we do know is that the law states “A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without attempting to grasp that player”. This is the only mention I can find in the laws to do with ‘wrapping’ the arms. And what we do know is that the ref, the TMO and the citing officer all believe that an attempt to grasp was made.
    So now we’ve established the tackle was ok, there is definitely a discussion to be had around consistency. Yes this was a tackle that on another day, with another ref could well have been penalised, rightly or wrongly (and Farrell is not absolved from blame for making such a 50/50 tackle at such a crucial point). And the videos above clearly show that Tu’ungafasi and Tupou should have been penalised.
    The WRU badly need to get some clarity into the tackle situation. How they do that is a difficult question




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    1. I think the head point is interesting, Pablito and raises another issue. Several of the other examples involve head contact, but at a lower height from the ground, with players bending over more. Say if Esterhuizen had slipped going into contact, and his head dropped into Farrell’s shoulder, it would have been a red card and ban for Farrell, and a defeat for England.

      The same intention from Farrell was there, but the outcome would have been different through no fault of his own.

      Admittedly, this is probably a debate for another day.




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      1. There wouldn’t necessarily have been ‘a defeat for England’ had Farrell been pinged. SA would have still had to have kicked the penalty. They had missed their previous attempt.




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      2. Well yes but then we’re discussing how the WRU should be dealing with high tackles rather than this specific tackle.
        Just as with tackling players in the air, it needs some serious clarification.




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    2. In response to Pablito’s video take, agree with the difference being non head contact in Farrell’s ‘tackle’. This was factual, so it wasn’t a ? of red. Therefore, comparisons with the other videos are irrelevant. They are separate issues involving the head. Nevertheless, It was case of yellow for Farrell’s illegal hit. The resultant penalty could have certainly changed the result. Esterhuizen’s actions are also irrelevant. What is relevant is that, however people want to present it, Farrell’s ‘tackle’ was shoulder led & therefore illegal. His left arm was dangling & only bent upwards from his elbow in a reflex action from the impact of his hit. It was never a conscious attempt to ‘wrap’. He dodged a bullet & maybe England did too.




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      1. There are no laws about tackles being ‘shoulder-led’ that I can find Don. The only law is that “A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without attempting to grasp that player”
        Now obviously this is a matter that is massively open to interpretation. I look at the still photo above and definitely see an attempt to ‘grasp’ the player – even if it’s not a very good attempt. The ref, TMO and citing officer all agreed.
        I am sure we’ll argue about it till the cows come home but there is no correct or incorrect here other than what the match officals rule




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        1. Precisely Pablito. By not attempting to grasp the tackler, Farrell’s deliberate shoulder charge was therefore illegal. By definition a shoulder charge makes it impossible for a tackler to grasp his opponent, as is required by law. A tackler must use his arms (what else can he/she use?) to grasp an opponent. Farrell made no attempt to do so. Was this why he lay on the ground thereafter, momentarily feigning injury due to a sense of fear at what he’d done. He then arose, apparently unscathed, to give a fist pump after his illegality went unpunished? Impressive. Makes me wonder about him & his rushes of blood. Doesn’t it you?




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          1. Eh? I’ve just said that I believe the still photo above clearly shows Farrell attempting to grasp the tackler – therefore it is not a penaty
            Which is the same conclusion the ref, TMO and citing officer came to.
            As form laying on the ground after, you really are clutching at straws here. He’d just collided with the 6ft 4, 17 and a half stone Esterhuizen running at full speed. Its hardly suprising he was knocked over and took a moment to get up
            Whilst I think you are letting a dislike for Farrell colour your judgment here, I do personally agree that the tackle was bloody silly at that point in the game and if he keeps up this kind of thing it will end up costing England




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  3. Don’t even see why there is a debate, penalty all day long, the Ref bottled it. if it had been the other way round do you think the decision would have been the same ? I seriously doubt it, the Twickenham crowd would have been baying for blood, shameful on the officials.




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    1. Cannot see how the ref bottled it. No head contact and he believed an attempt to grasp was made.
      Correct decision and backed up by the TMO and citing officer




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      1. Pablito, so what? They ignored the law & gave an interpretation of which clearly suits you. You’re being subjective. Drawing a parallel, did you also back the officials over the BOD tackle? Unbluddylikely! Less convenient, that 1?




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        1. I think you are suffering a basic misunderstanding here Don.
          Once we’ve decided there’s no head contact, which is more or less black and white, then the only question is over whether he tried to grasp the player. Because the laws state ‘attempt’, that is a matter that is entirely open to interpretation – and the official’s interpretation – and mine – was that he did. Therefore no penalty. Your opinion may differ
          I cannot see what the BOD has to do with this but to answer you anyway, the question there was – did Mealamu and Umaga pick BOD up and drop him on his head whilst he was not involved with play. The answer is yes they did. That is black and white and is foul play. No interpretation needed. And therefore they should have been punished.




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    2. Stesco, try telling the little Englanders that. Perhaps David Flatman, Stuart Barnes & Strphen Jones are ALL really 1eyed Kiwis then! They all stated it was an illegal tackle. Why can’t people accept reality? This aura of perception seems to pervade English rugby & it holds it back. Good for opponents though.




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  4. Have tried posting a link to Kyran Bracken’s Twitter where he posts a video of 2 Springbok no arms tackles on George Kruis, both connecting with the head (2 red cards by the letter of the law) which not only went unpunished, but led to a SA penalty.

    Refs just having an off day?




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    1. Another instance that comes to mind is Bismark on Dan Carter, the former receiving a yellow card for a very similar tackle. I thought Bismark was unlucky considering there was significantly more wrapping/grasping.




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    2. Just looked at it E.C. His first post shows a photo from the Telegraph that clearly demonstrates Farrell’s attempt to grasp Esterhuizen.
      I don’t think there should be any question now that the officals got this call right




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        1. Nope – just have some free time to write answers and believe that many people on here are judging it by their emotions, their opinion of Farrell and what they believe the laws to say, not what they actually do say.




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          1. Pab, BTW the 2 S Times hacks, Barnes & Jones, disagree with yr version of the ‘tackle’. Perhaps their emotions & opinions got the better of their knowledge of the tackle law as well. Yr criticism actually pertains to yrself. Sad to see jingoism is still alive & well.




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            1. Oh dear Don. You know you’ve lost the point when you need to quote Barnes and Jones.
              I’ve not read what they say but because the law leaves this open to interpretation they are welcome to their opinion
              As for me, I’ve stated my opinion clearly with reference to the actual law and what it says, not what I think it says. I’ve also backed that up with reference to pictures that I think support my opinion.
              There’s no emotion in that. I have no love for Farrell and when I first saw the tackle thought it was a penalty. Rewatching though and realising the law makes no references to wrapping or leading with the shoulder has made me change my mind.




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              1. Pab, you still delude yrself. Farrell charged his opponent (with his shoulder). Would you agree? He didn’t attempt to grasp his opponent. With his right shoulder in the opponent’s chest & being side on (otherwise how could he shoulder charge) & with his left arm on the other (left) side of his own body (that’s how we’re anatomically constructed), it was therefore physically impossible for him to attempt to ‘grasp’ his opponent. Agree? No of course not. Why do you find this reality so difficult to, er, grasp?




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      1. Sorry Pablito, I don´t think it demonstrates that at all. The arm wrapped round due to impact not intention and there was no serious attempt to do anything other than hit the man. Farrell knew he should be in trouble and you could see his relief at having got away with it. Usually agree with most of what you say on here, but on this occasion I believe that the ref failed to fulfil his responsibilities.




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        1. AL, agree 100 %. There you have it Pab. On this occasion you’ve blinded yrself with fake science & reframed actuality. More dastardly than Terry-Thomas!




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  5. No head contact, and I’m glad it went upstairs for the video reply.. which clearly shows the left arms attempting to wrap and the right arm swing up (but blocked by the ball carrying elbow).

    Was Faz playing on the edge – absolutely!
    Did the physics of such a mammoth collision stop the arms from being able to wrap? Yes.
    Was it illegal? No way!

    That said, if the decision to award a penalty was given, I wouldn’t have been surprised as it’s about the interpretation of the referee and officials in a hugely pressurised environment (again, I’m glad he asked for the replay).




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    1. GD, you ‘sound’ like Pabloto. Such effort to support an illegal tackle. If Farrell was so legit, why the gargantuan effort to justify his action then? ‘Attempting to wrap’, is like telling yr mortgage holder that you attempted pay yr last mthly bill.. but that you didn’t! Neither cut it fella! The head thing is a red… Herring BTW.




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      1. It was legal. Quit the moaning. The action, the hit and the arms et al were all below the neck. The only query was in the arm wrap. He was given the benefit of the doubt. What’s done is done. On to the next one.




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        1. What’s happened to you AlexD? I thought you were back? Got the sack again? Anyway, trust you enjoyed the match? Pity that Lawes was offside though. Still, what’s done is done. On to the next one. Happy days.




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  6. No head contact, and I’m glad it went upstairs for the video reply.. which clearly shows the left arms attempting to wrap and the right arm swing up (but blocked by the ball carrying elbow).

    Was Faz playing on the edge – absolutely!
    Did the physics of such a mammoth collision stop the arms from being able to wrap? Yes.
    Was it illegal? No way!

    That said, if the decision to award a penalty was given, I wouldn’t have been surprised as it’s about the interpretation of the referee and officials in a hugely pressurised environment (again, I’m glad he asked for the replay).




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  7. I called it a penalty (no more than that, certainly not worthy of a card) at the time and still consider it to have been one.
    I’m quite sure it would have been given had the scores not been so close and the game was not nearing its end. The officials bottled it. I understand why. Giving a penalty to effectively decide the game is a very tough call when there may be reasons you could back out. Had the situation been different then a different decision would have been made.




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    1. Steve, agree, but don’t expect too many more ‘thumbs ups’ here I’m afraid. The officials should just have done their jobs. No one puts a gun to their heads, do they?




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      1. Can only call it as i saw it. These type of challenges are routinely penalised in the GP and this one should have been as well.
        Appreciate refs are under great pressure. Home side winning by a point, you award a contentious penalty that sees the opposition taking a win. Its a tough place to be.
        I would say that the officials seemed pretty relaxed about a number of other high tackles during the game.
        Therein lies the problem with this area: lack of consistency. Sometimes a challenge is picked up and scrutinised by the TMO; other times no one bats an eyelid in an identical situation.




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  8. Having caught up, thought I’d reiterate a few points/get to the crux.

    As Pablito points out, the tackle law that applies in this circumstance is “A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without attempting to grasp that player”.

    Don P, your response to this is: “By not attempting to grasp the tackler, Farrell’s deliberate shoulder charge was therefore illegal.”

    However, as most commentators have pointed out, the definition of *attempt* is subjective.

    My main question is (entirely reiterating Pablito), looking at the photo at the top, would you agree with the comment that Farrell is attempting to wrap his arms? Ie does his arms make, or look like they will bind onto Esterhuizen?




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    1. No Marco, not in a million. The subjectivity comes those i(ncl you?) whom attempt to justify thuggery. Farrell’s shoulder ‘charge’ alone was illegal, as per yr law quote. As for Farrell’s ‘attempt’ to grasp, there was none. Why all the column inches here, controversy everywhere & condemnation by yr own Flatman, Barnes & S Jones if Farrell were squeaky clean? As a non Saffa or Englander, I don’t have a personal axe to grind like all whom are in denial and attempt to justify foul play, from which yr law quote also emanates. Piss poor form ol’ bean.




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    2. Marco, no. The pic is misleading as it depicts reflex, or recoil, actions as the result of impact. ‘Like a cannon after it fires. So ‘attempt’ is irrelevant as he didn’t make any. What, that on top of his deliberate shoulder charge is a dangerous, out of control & dumb act, particularly @ that time & place during the match. And do you think NZ will not have taken note? FCOL! Or have I already responded to this? What the heck. In for a penny…




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  9. Front on tackles I always hit with the shoulder and wrapped my arms. if as in this case I got bounced I couldn’t wrap my arms. So unless all tackles have to to be with the arms in front of you this is a perfectly good tackle




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  10. You could look at many different images from different angles and suite them to your point of view. I think Brian Moore summed it up quite nicely when he said in the context of what had already been allowed the it was perfect ok. So it was a consistent interpretation of the law within the game, which is all you can hope for really.

    I was lucky enough to be at the game, and I can tell you I’ve never know it so quiet during the first half.
    Regarding next week, I was also lucky enough to be at the NZ game in 2012, and no one gave us a chance then either!




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      1. ‘V gd pt Burt’. Jeez Pablito, you re slipping. Brian Moore? Perlease! Fingers xxed indeed. Maybe yr Farrell mate will have another rush of blood on Sat. Fingers xxed!




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    1. Burt, who gives a shite what the irascible, contrary Brian More thinks? He’s as balanced as Oswald Moseley. Context indeed. What’s the law state about using arms for Chissake?! Bone up fella!




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      1. I don’t think you’ve read the law Don. It states nothing about ‘using arms’ just that an attempt must be made to ‘grasp’




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        1. Pan, I’ve read it, but as you can only ‘grasp’ with yr arms I used a bit of poetic licence. Srry. That aside, Farrell charged with his shoulder, which is illegal. That alone warranted a pen & is NOT open to interpretation, spurious or otherwise.




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        2. What is he going to grasp him with if not his arms Pablito? Teeth, legs, approach backwards and clasp him between his buttocks?




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          1. Well presumably his hands Andy. I’m guessing that you drop a lot of stuff if you try and pick it up using just your arms.
            The point is that the law does not state you need to wrap, or use your arms, just ‘attempt to grasp’ – and what that means is entirely open to interpretation




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            1. To you Pab, but the reality is that Farrell DIDN’T ‘attempt to grasp’ his opponent. Why do you keep defending the indefensible? Blind faith? Maybe you’re religious? But if you want to believe other than what actually happened, knock yrself out. Yr cred has taken a dip in my eyes though. Happy days.




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  11. Why do people keep mentioning head contact? As there was none, this red herring irrelevant? The issue & resultant controversy is because Farrell didn’t use his arms. That’s illegal. End of. Everything else is piffle. AlexD probably thinks illegal is a sick bird. Glad to see he’s back after doing time as the site can do with some more enervating, nationalistic bollocks. There’s just not enough if it here. Nart mean?




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    1. Like hearing your bigoted anti-English echo-chamber of a voice then Don P. Good to be back my pakeha kiwi.
      Farrell appeared to use his arms therefore proving enough intent to sway the mind of the match referee. Seeming as you were neither the match day referee nor yet an All Black Don P (nothing new there – just a wannabe) Farrell has been ajudged to have won the day – literally.




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      1. Not anti English AD, as I dare say I’ve lived here longer than you. Just anti you as you contribute nothing objective. Also anti illegal tackles as per Farrell’s & as affirmed by 2 S Times rugger writers, or are they also anti English bigots? That might be a bit difficult. How do you know I wanna be an AB? I’m too old. But neither are you an AB or a referee to the best of my knowledge, but what’s that got to do with the price of fish anyway? Irrelevant drivel as usual. I’ve missed it.. not. Reckon OF’s going to ‘win the day’ illegally again next Sat? Hope he tries. The 2 of you seem well suited as rushes of blood to the head cases. Fingers xxed!




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        1. Don P, I’d suggest you stop giving Stuart Barnes credit for knowing enough about rugby to be considered an expert. In his article he says

          ‘I suggest that officials stop using the word `attempt.’ There either is or there isn’t.’

          So clearly he has no idea what world rugby law 8 part 16 says as he does not realise the law states you only need to attempt to use your arms. Enough said really.




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            1. Don P, I’ve read all your comments, and while I disagree with the majority of what you say (in particular your unbelievably condescending tone), I can’t be bothered to pick a fight with you on any of your points (life is too short) aside from the one about Barnes.

              What I said is a point of fact. Barnes made a statement which directly contradicts the laws of rugby. All I did was point that out as it severely undermines Barnes’ point of view and his rugby intellect. No other journalist or ex player has made such a mistake this week.




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              1. Nsly, ironic & I regret that you find my tone condescending, as I, rightly or wrongly, perceived yr last sentence similarly. Whatever. You don’t have agree with anything I’ve stated, even concerning Barnes. However, he was just 1 of a number of journo ‘experts’ who agreed that it was a penalty. Flatman. Slot, Jones being others. Perhaps they’re all wrong, but I venture that they have no reason to condemn Farrell. They have no particular record of having done so in the past to the best of my knowledge. Neither do I, especially being non English, although not rating Farrell as much as some (all?). However, I call a spade Spade & frankly Farrell’s action was thuggish & illegal for reasons already stated. Repugnantly, he got away with it. You OTOH, can only, by ‘inteterpreting’ this ‘foul’ (for that’s the heading under which Farrell’s action is found under WR laws) be seeking to justify this incident. Understandable, only up to a point. And as I’ve already asked elsewhere, if an AB perpetrates this sort of ‘tackle’ nxt Sat, will yr view still be the same? Doubt it. Sometimes we see what we want to see. Happy days.




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  12. Guys, the ‘Boks threw that game away. Illegal tackle or not, if they were 15/20 points ahead, as they should have been we would have got the penalty and most probably got another 3 points. Done and dusted. My frustration with SA rugby is they play to instructions. Do not play to what is happening on the park. Plus, Marx must learn to toss the ball to the catcher, 3 overthrows, criminal.




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  13. Good balanced view from Sean Fitzpatrick this morning on talk sport. Pretty much echoed Brian Moore.
    There’s nothing wrong in striving for faultless officiating, much in the same way that teams strive for error free games. However we have understand that humans are prone to error, pressures and in the case of match officials a set of rules that are there to be interpreted. Consistency therefore is probably the most important yardstick. The caveat is obviously blatant incompetence, which is what I think is being alluded to in some posts, and in light of several very similar challenges during the match seems to be grossly unfair.




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      1. Scrum Vs verdict, 2-1 on the side of a correct decision. So you can probably find as many opinions for as against. As I’ve alluded to before, in light of several similar challenges during the match the descion was consistent. I do think you need to find some balance, maybe putting a chip on the other shoulder may help somewhat….




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        1. Ouch Burt. A bit bitchy. Unclear about yr ‘scrum Vs..’ comment though? Anyway, would you specifically state what is not balanced converning my statements on Farrell’s illegal tackle? Especially so as yr ‘chip’ comment was purely subjective. Pots & kettles? Shall I look fwd to yr response?




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  14. Just my point of view but, because Farrell hits him above the waist and, because Esterhuizen is (correctly) carrying the ball in both hands in front of him to protect it, when Farrell hits Esterhuizen he falls back quickly, preventing Farrell from completing the tackle. If Farrell had tackled him lower in a softer area of the body, he would more likely have been able to complete the tackle and wrap his arms.

    Kids are coached to hit with the shoulder and wrap the arms to get a “ring of steel”. Difficult to lead with your arms out into a tackle. Hit, then wrap.

    Was Farrell’s tackle legal? It’s above armpit level, so yes. Was there contact with the head? No. Penalty should have been awarded but, no card needed.




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  15. Can´t believe the comment in the original post that the officials chose “the safer option.” What they chose was the gutless, favour the home team option to avoid leaving the pitch to a storm of abuse. What the TMO was watching I have no idea, but it certainly wasn´t Farrell´s shoulder charge. There was absolutely no attempt to wrap the right arm, it swung forward of its own momentum after contact. Certainly a penalty, and whether it was a card or not doesn´t really matter in the 82nd minute. Add this to the last England penalty which was a complete joke (why would the Boks want to wheel the scrum in that position)?, and one has to conclude that the ref had a stinker from the SA perspective.




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  16. I wanted to believe it was legal; because of the 14 kilo weight discrepancy between Farrell and the bloke he tackled. In the dying embers of the match, it was probably the only way he could have stopped him. Farrel to be truthful got away with that one and England won a match maybe they should have lost. Still, at least it evens the matches played against SA this current year at 2 all.WEll done the men in white




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