Rugby Needs to Red Card the Cheats Posted over 11 years ago

I suspect that more important offences are missed in rugby than any other sport. But don’t blame the refs – or not too much, wouldn’t want to spoil all the fun. The problem is so many things are happening at the same time on and off the ball, it is almost impossible for one man to pick up.

Get Victor Matfield’s ‘Lineout’ coaching module now…

Did I say one man? In fact it is almost impossible for three men to pick up, because the assistant refs seem to miss most of the stuff as well. The situation has become so bad, it may be time to consider a second referee on the pitch whose sole area of concern is to monitor what is happening off the ball.

There was wholesale cheating during the international weekend, as is usual in the modern game at the top level. Australia’s try against England was created because Nick Phipps run through a gap created by off the ball obstruction. Italy’s try against New Zealand was similarly fashioned and so was France’s third try against Argentina.

The poor old Pumas, who keep getting the worst of the refs particularly when Mr Walsh is involved, could have justifiably wondered why four Frenchmen were not yellow carded. The first French offender should have been punished with at least a yellow and arguably also a penalty try for a deliberate knock-on. Then there was a tackle on a man in the air, a hit five yards after the man had passed the ball and finally a trip. The last two went completely unnoticed by the officials.

At present the IRB is busily reviewing the Adam Thomson affair – and quite right too. A local New Zealand ref told me he was aghast at the leniency of the punishment. He said it was typical of the judicial bodies who seem to put the ref on trial more than the accused player and make it almost impossible for him to do his job on a Saturday.

But perhaps the IRB could also give some thought of how it is going to deal with this plague of cheating. Football is far more sensible on the issue. It yellow cards players for diving and it red cards players who foul in order to prevent a direct goal scoring opportunity.

I would like to see rugby get similarly medieval on the asses of these serial cheats. Anyone who prevents a try scoring opportunity by cheating, as in the deliberate knock on, should be red carded. Anyone who creates a try-scoring opportunity by cheating, as in blatantly holding or blocking a player off the ball, should be red carded. They should then be up before the beak and suspended for a game or two. It is the only way to get this stuff out of the game.

It may also be worth considering an orange card for players who seek to gain an advantage by holding and obstructing and shepherding and deliberately preventing release. Two orange cards would lead to a red card.

While on judicial matters, I also wonder why the IRB is acting on Thomson but not on Samoa. At least three Samoans should have been cited and suspended after the victory against Wales for a swinging arm, a no arms high hit and a highly dangerous clean-out. No top level team will want to play Samoa, a side that brings so much joy to other parts of its rugby, if it can’t clean up its game. The cost in players is just too high.

At the moment it’s anarchy out there. The IRB needs to make 2013 the year when it cleans up the game. It needs to instruct refs to issue red cards for cheating and for violence and it needs to warn coaches there will be zero tolerance. The IRB then needs to back the refs to the hilt in the judicial hearings.

The IRB’s new boss has made a good start, but he needs to go much, much further.

Enter your email address to continue reading

We frequently post interesting articles and comment from our world class content providers so please provide us with your email address and we will notify you when new articles are available.

We'll also get in touch with various news and updates that we think will interest you. We promise to not spam, sell, or otherwise abuse your address (you can unsubscribe at any time).

See all News & Opinions videos


comments powered by Disqus

Mark Reason has been a sports journalist for over 25 years. He currently works for Fairfax Media and will also be part of the Telegraph's World Cup team and a regular panellist on Radio New Zealand during the World Cup. He has covered every Rugby World Cup since 1991, the 2000 and 2008 Olympics, over 40 golf major championships, the FA Cup final, the Epsom Derby and a lot of other stuff he can't remember. Mark emigrated to New Zealand in 2010 having spent over 20 years covering sport for the Telegraph and Sunday Times in Britain.

Topic News & Opinions
Applicable to Coaches  

Related articles

Winging it

The Hurricanes wing play destroyed the Crusaders in Super Rugby’s round 7. Mark Reason points out the lessons to be learned from Savea et al.

In search of the perfect pass

The Hurricanes delivered a lesson in how to execute the right pass at the right time against the Cheetahs in Super Rugby round 5.

The art of the kick in behind

Jonny Sexton and Ireland tried to exploit England’s rush defence by kicking in behind. Unfortunately for the Irish, Sexton lacked the kind of precision that Aaron Cruden showed against them in November.

Schmidt plots a course through England's defence

Joe Schmidt and Ireland found a way to breach both the All Black’s and the Welsh defences. Can they repeat the trick at Twickenham on Saturday and stay on course for the Grand Slam?

Ah, the rolling maul

Josef Schmidt’s Ireland identified Wales’s weaknesses and were relentless in exposing them writes Mark Reason