World Rugby not backing down on red cards in 'period of adjustment' for high tackles

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper says there’ll be no easing off on red cards anytime soon amid global frustration around send-offs.

Red cards have become contentious topics on both sides of the globe in recent months, with a crackdown on head-high tackles generating a series of confusing send-offs, and Gosper said the public frustration was simply a reflection of a period of ‘adjustment’.

Former Wallabies flanker George Smith was sent off in the Premiership a fortnight ago before being cleared by the judiciary over the contact, while a send off and suspension for Leicester's Will Spencer had coach Geordan Murphy saying rugby had gone 'too PC'.

While Gosper said there needed to be more consistency around cards, they wouldn't be asking referees to back down on handing them out for high tackles.

“We've got to work on our consistency but at the end of the day we're trying to change player behaviour and we're trying to do that in the best way we can and cards are the best way to change player behaviour,” he told reporters in Sydney on Sunday ahead of a week of World Rugby committee meetings.

“We're trying to lower the tackle height so we can reduce the incidence of concussion and injury and we know from evidence that that's what that does.

“We just have to be consistent with our calls and make sure it's very clear what we mean by a head high tackle or a tackle that's too high and so on and I think we'll get there but you always go through this period of people believing there are too many cards because you're adjusting player behaviour.

Gosper admitted, though, the TMO system could be due for a change with the working group to deliver its findings to a World Rugby committee this week in Sydney.

SANZAAR requested a review of the TMO after a series of contentious video calls in June and the latter part of Super Rugby but World Rugby is yet to announce any new processes.

“It is possible there could be changes,” Gosper said.

“We had a working group looking at that, they'll report into the rugby committee this week so we can't share the results of that because rugby committee haven't discussed it yet.

“There were some discussions, there were some sensitivities out here in particular.

“There weren't particularly many sensitivities in other parts of the world to be honest but we have looked at it and I think there will be some positive change but I can't pre-empt that until those discussions are had in the rugby committee.

Gosper also dismissed the suggestion that neck rolls, particularly those on Wallabies flanker David Pocock, were going unnoticed by officials.

Pocock missed Australia’s Brisbane Test against South Africa with neck soreness after being targeted by the All Blacks in August’s second Bledisloe but Gosper said there was no need to crack down.

“I think we cracked down already on head rolls so I can't comment on any particular case.

“I'm not sure he's particularly targeted either.

“I can't comment on any one incident but we're certainly against neck rolls and the laws are against neck rolls and people are instructed to look out for that sort of behaviour.

A host of World Rugby guests were at Sunday’s NRC game between the Rays and the Drua at Concord Oval, with more bigwigs expected to arrive on Monday for the quarterly committee meetings.

World Rugby rotates its final meeting of the year and this is the first time the meetings have come to Australia since Gosper took over the CEO role.

The key topics discussed aside from the TMO review are the progress of 2019 Rugby World Cup preparations, player welfare and the next stage in the bid process for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup.