This Rugby World Cup has already set a record for the most red cards in a tournament. Rightly so. If we are being honest, it could and should have been a higher number of them dished out. World Rugby do have to take some responsibility for the consistency of some refereeing decisions to ensure it is easier for fans and players to understand. Nobody would argue if any borderline decisions were judged on the harsher side – it’s the only way players will learn.
However, it is the players that must take ultimate responsibility. They know exactly what ‘a mitigating factor’ constitutes and they wouldn’t have to worry about them if their body positions were correct in the first place. Mistakes happen, but I struggle to believe that fully paid professionals don’t train to tackle low. The only logical reason to go high is to wrap up the ball and you definitely wouldn’t lead with the shoulder or aim for the head if that was your aim.
It is such a shame for the viewer as well. Two games over the weekend promised to be good fixtures. Until Lavanini’s red card, Argentina v England had been a cracking contest, which unfortunately lasted for all of ten or fifteen minutes. After that, it wasn’t a match. That tip-tackle in Italy’s game was horrendous to watch and made even worse for the spectator as Italy threatened to claw their way back into the game. There was no way back after that.
These professionals need to stand up and realise that these ‘macho’ acts of trying to put in a big, dangerous hit are a danger to themselves and others. In a showpiece event, it may well put parents off letting their kids get involved as well. In addition, they can cost a team a potentially crucial shot at a victory that could define a tournament and spoil a contest entirely.
I hope that the referees keep dishing them out for any challenge that could warrant one, but hopefully the remaining fixtures won’t be defined by such actions.
By Joe Large