Stamp out neck rolls before a "serious injury" occurs: McKellar

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has called on SANZAAR to follow the example of the NRL on the "crusher tackle" and stamp out rugby's neck roll before "someone gets seriously injured".

Pocock was ruled out of the Wallabies team today after failing to overcome a neck injury sustained against the All Blacks in Auckland.

The dogged flanker was the subject of several blatant neck rolls but referees, and SANZAAR's citing officers, did nothing.

McKellar knows the frustration well, having sent vision and examples several times to SANZAAR this year of Pocock being neck-rolled during Super Rugby games.

The response was the same every time. According to SANZAAR the incidents did not meet the red card threshold, and were therefore not cited.

While McKellar stressed red cards would be an extreme measure he told RUGBY.com.au there is a dangerous gap in the judicial process, and suspensions must be used to stamp the neck roll action out of the game.

"David is very good at what he does and I don't think anyone has issues with him being a priority for opposition teams but you want him to be dealt with legally," McKellar said.

"In some instances that isn't the case and from the whole game's perspective it's an element which has got to be ruled out before someone seriously gets injured."

While far from perfect on the safety measures front rugby could do worse than look across to the way rugby league has treated crusher and chicken wing tackles.

Severe suspensions from the NRL have all but stamped the incidents out of the game and McKellar said SANZAAR should follow suit.

"The NRL had to clamp down a few years ago on crusher tackles and chicken wing tackles and you don't see them anymore," he said.

"They are very rare and when they do appear they are treated harshly.

"There is no place for them in the game and that's the same in our game.

"We are talking the importance of player safety here.

"It's something which needs to be ruled out and it's the only way you will stamp out is if there is a consequence for the action."

The inconsistency of rugby officialdom toward neck rolls is frustrating to many. In the 2015 Rugby World Cup, several players were handed decent bans for neck rolls that were no worse than the ones the Aussie flanker copped in Auckland.

Pocock was also handed a two-match suspension in 2016 for a neck roll on then-Chiefs no. 8 Michael Leitch.

The incidents appear to be far more malicious than the actions of Israel Folau in an aerial contest against Peter O'Mahony in the third June Test, too, and that's a point McKellar made clear.

"The big thing with it is the inconsistency," McKellar said.

"Israel gets suspended for what was a genuine contest in the air and an accident.

"We've got this action... it's the inconsistency which is frustrating.

"If we are going to be serious about protecting players from head and neck injuries this has to go.

"Until we start to see consequences for the action it won't."