Don't tinker with rugby tackle laws, say All Blacks

Tue, Nov 10, 2020, 11:31 PM
by AAP
Sam Whitelock says players just need to improve their tackle technique despite calls for red cards to stop being shown. Photo: Getty Images
Sam Whitelock says players just need to improve their tackle technique despite calls for red cards to stop being shown. Photo: Getty Images

Veteran All Black Sam Whitelock, who was the victim of a clumsy shot by Wallabies rookie Lachie Swinton, has rejected calls for changes to the high tackle framework, saying it's players who need to adjust.

Swinton was rubbed out until next February - missing the remainder of the Tri-Nations plus two Super Rugby games - after he was red-carded for his hit on the All Blacks lock in the 35th minute of the Suncorp Stadium match on Saturday night.

While only making his Test debut, Swinton couldn't get his four-match ban reduced by the SANZAAR judicial committee as he had two prior offences on his record.


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New Zealand prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi was also sent off for a similar tackle on Wallabies winger Tom Wright, and is set to miss their clash with Argentina in Sydney on Saturday night.

By the letter of the law, Swinton's tackle was a red-card offence with world rugby clamping down on hits to the head, even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders.

But some former players have called for the use of yellow cards (a 10 minute suspension) for such incidents with it to come under review post-match, leaving a send-off for pre-meditated foul play, 

Whitelock, who has played 120 Tests, didn't think the law needed softening or referees to adjust their interpretation, and wanted players to play to the rules.

"Personally, it doesn't matter how it's reffed or ruled, as long as it's consistent from the referee and judiciary," said Whitelock, who was sporting a black eye, although said it wasn't from Swinton's high tackle.

"Our job as players is to make sure we train and learn what we can and can't do, so if it's lowering our tackle height, if it's wrapping our arms in a tackle, it all goes from there.

"We can't worry about that ... we're rugby players who are out there to play rugby."


Whitelock, 32, said he and his team had put many hours into adjusting their tackle technique after the crackdown last year.

He was supported by All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree, who said the rules were there to ensure the safety of players.

"I know there's been a bit of a noise about it after the weekend but the rules say what foul play is and we've got an obligation to make sure that players are safe," Plumtree said.

"When we're coaching our players, individually and collectively, we're always talking about body height and making sure that in contact that we do the right thing and target the right areas.

"At times players are going to get that wrong under pressure and we saw that on the weekend."

The Wallabies reassemble on Wednesday after some time off following their shock 24-22 win, starting preparations for their first clash with the Pumas in Newcastle on November 21.

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