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When Alain Rolland reached into his pocket in the 18th minute to bring out the red card for Welsh captain Sam Warburton, he was operating to the letter of the IRB’s laws, but in doing so ruined a World Cup semifinal.

Andrew Alderson writes in the NZ Herald that the game that promised so much turned into a 15 vs 14 battle of attrition, something a booing crowd struggled to accept or appreciate.

As for Warburton, his campaign is likely to be over, with the mandatory appearance in front of the judiciary – a devastating lesson for one of the players of the tournament. He was then submitted to the indignity of a camera thrust in his face for several minutes so the watching world could feel it too. A gut-wrenching moment; he did well to handle it with composure.rned into a 15 vs 14 battle of attrition, something a booing crowd struggled to accept or appreciate.

Yes, it was a foolish tackle. Yes, wing Vincent Clerc was upended. Yes, the lawbook says there is to be zero-tolerance under a memorandum last year. The memorandum told referees to enforce the law on tip tackles severely, yet confusingly also asked them to make an objective assessment of the overall circumstances of the tackle.

Rolland faced a decision based between three parameters under IRB law.

1. The player is lifted and then forced or “speared” into the ground. A red card should be issued.

2. The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player’s safety. A red card should be issued.

3. The players is lifted with their head below horizontal and tackled to the ground. At a minimum a yellow card should be issued, with an ejection a possible result depending on the circumstances of the tackle.

So Warburton was always going to get at least a yellow card. However, the laws made it tough for his survival and encouraged Rolland to hunt for red. They say referees should not make their decisions based on what they consider was the intention of the offending player. Instead it should be based on an objective assessment.

Therefore Rolland can’t be blamed fully. The IRB laws say there is no room for discretion; no room to question intent. But all for what? Clerc got up fine yet the game disintegrated. Warburton had already started to pull out of the tackle as Clerc was travelling towards the ground. It was not a soft landing but one where Warburton looked to mitigate his actions.

Gatland was gutted: “I feel hollow. The destiny of an opportunity was taken away. I accept Sam lifting him probably warranted a yellow card but he let him go; he didn’t drive him into the ground. The thing that surprised me was the referee’s instinct. I thought an experienced referee at that stage would have brought his two touchies in to ask them what they thought and have a look at the screen. I just thought that decision ruined the semifinal; we had our chance taken away.

“I’m gutted with the red card because there was no malicious intent,” Warburton said. “I went to compete for the ball afterwards but the next thing I knew, I was walking off into the stands.”

Gatland suggested putting players on report like rugby league might be the answer.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. 2. The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player’s safety. A red card should be issued.

    And there in lie the truth.

    Watch the video again. The second camera angle shows that he let him go. By his own admission he said he released him to compete for the ball. Sorry stupid, you should have brought him to ground first. Maybe the -60 degree trying froze your brain.

  2. I applaud Rolland. He had the guts to apply the correct sanction for that tackle……….despite the claimed ‘intention’ of the tackler or the significance of the game.

    Quite simply, tip tackles, or what ever you want to call them, can cause injuries to players and if professional players get away with them they will be copied by school boy and other amateur players. Injuries, some severe, will be the result. That fact that Clerc was not injured is not a reason to apply leniency.

    Unlike Lawrence, who did not have the strength of character to uphold the law after suffering from critisism from a coach, Roilland has shown himself to be a decisive and unswayed by events.

    And Mr Gatland, Roilland did not affect the Welsh ‘destiny of opportunity’; Sam Warburton did. :Ollie:

  3. A few years ago someone suggested a great idea.

    Allow the team to replace a red-carded player and hand out longer suspensions or large fines. That way they punish the player and not the team and does not ruin the game for the fans.

    Will make decisions easier for the referees also.

  4. Reply to Timeo @ 3:06 am:

    Or make the rules simpler and let the players know that dangerous play will result in a red card irrespective of the circumstances or intent.

    Poor refereeing has allowed McAwe and Umaga get away with a tip tackle that injured Brian O’Driscoll and Brad Thorn get away with one that injured John Smit. Do we have to wait for a paralysing acute neck flexion injury, and make no mistake if Clerc has been tipped a bit more he could have had one, to a player?

  5. This only became an issue after the tackle on O Driscoll in the Lions tour to NZ. The NH unions insisted on this. Now it came back to bite them in the arse and the laws must be changed again. Getting a bit soft there in Europe

  6. At the end of the day punters can ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ all day long on what could have been had Warburton not been sent off…

    However!

    The cold hard fact remains that the Welsh themselves lost that by missing 4 out of 5 of their penalty-kicks!

    That’s just not good enough in a RWC!

    Kudos must be given to France in that ’30 something phase’ play within their own half for being calm, still putting in the big hits… yet giving it all their concentration to not give away a penalty and lost the game…

    Rolland had a good game…

  7. Even against 14 men France sturggled. Man they looked like they were coasting. If it was not France, I would say Australia have nothing to worry about next weekend. :pot:

    Rolland was in good position and I think the follow through making contact with the player’s face turned into a red card.

    Saw much worse stuff against Samoa and Tonga. Here the law was applied how it should be.

    Double standards creates impression of biase which leads to the loss of disgruntled fans.

  8. Reply to Timeo @ 3:06 am:

    I understand the reasoning behind it, but when it comes to foul play specifically, it is not the ref or the laws’ responsibility to keep players on the field, it is the players themselves.

  9. I am sorry if you lift a player and drop him you know what the law state don’t come with the bullshit that it took the contest away because of 14 playing 15. In World Rugby there are too many times when players get away with it.

    Play the law of the game and you will stay on the field

    :respek: To Roland

  10. My 2 cents:

    I did not saw the match and only saw the highlights with this tackle. I am sorry but a ref’s job is to keep law on the field and to protect the players. If this guy only got a penalty or a yellow card what message are we sending out? – As long as the player do not break his neck you are ok?

    Ref did right by me, foul play must be punish and taken out of the game. I do not care how nice a player is or his record. Everyone knows the danger of a spear and what danager it can be for the player being speared. When will realize this? when someone get injured or die by it?

    I would ban a player for 6 months if it was me.

    I would also red card anybody who hit another player, same with stiff arm tackles or shoulder tackle.

    The reason people now complain of this red card is because the law is not always use correctly by refs.

    The players safety must be the highest priority for any ref in any game at any level.

  11. ….and if the law would be implimented correctly players will not do these foul play anymore for they will see that the will be red carded, but because ref’s do what they want on the field with no punishment players think they can get away with it and want to bitch about it the day the one ref do give the card

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