It is not hot news that new rulings have come in for 2017 to combat the problem of concussions, anything that improves the safety aspects of the game for players is surely a good thing, however given the vast amount of cards shown in Rugby this weekend and the controversy surrounding them, is the ruling appropriate?
This weekend we saw a massive rise in the number of cards brandished, and this is definitely not a good thing; taking more players out of the game than ever. Matches are more likely to be one sided simply down to an arm making any contact with an opponent above the chest. It is not only the matter of players being sent off or sin binned which is changing, but also a matter of players changing their actions to cater for the new rule; they may be sceptical of making challenges down to the high chance of a card, and this is not what we want to see!
Most people would agree that something had to be done about the safety of players, and they would also agree that the ruling was made with good intentions, but slot of those who have played/coached at the highest level would come to the conclusion that changes have been made in the wrong way. One Rugby great who agrees with this is Welshman Jonathan Davies, who stated that referees are taking the ruling too literally, the potential end goal is positive for the sport, but ‘it is not being refereed properly’, leading to negative change on the pitch. He believes that refs need to use a common sense approach; needing to be able to define between a low, high, clean, cheap tackle. Exeter’s Rob Baxter who’s team were on the positive side of a red card at the weekend v Saracens believes the rule is having a negative effect.
If the new rule is going to work, referee’s are going to have to be consistent with their decisions, as inconsistency will spark controversy within the leagues about whether the rule is ‘un-reffable’ as Osprey’s boss Tandy believes. In fact, Davies and pundit Sean Holley have already picked out a prime example of this from the first week of the rule being put in place. They believe Ulster’s Ready should not have been penalised for his challenge against Scarlet Aled Davies, which he received a visit to the sin bin for. This has raised the question of whether refs are giving cards down to them knowing all eyes are on them when a high arm is seen; adding more pressure to their game.
Is the game changing for the worse? Or are refs just experiencing some teething problems with the new rule?