The Magic 8 Ball: Rugby World Cup Suspensions

The Magic 8 Ball: Rugby World Cup Suspensions

The various discipline panels have just met over in the UK and delivered an array of suspensions to World Cup players. Having shaken the magic 8 ball, they have come up with the following:

Sean O’Brien, Ireland: punch (above), one week.

Ross Ford and Jonny Gray, Scotland: lifting tackle (above), three weeks each.

Marcelo Bosch, Argentina: lifting tackle, one week.

For Australian fans, this means Scotland will be without both lock Gray (brother of better known Richie) and mobile hooker Ford this weekend.

For the game more broadly, the whole process is beginning to look ridiculous. O’Brien punched a guy in the gut, off the ball, on the rugby pitch. That’s not rugby, that’s something else.

The others, by contrast, were at least trying to play the game. In fact, as we’ve seen time and again, the lifting tackle guidelines utterly ignore (a) that such tackles can be the effect of good rugby technique (b) that such tackles can be caused by intervening factors, like the player’s own momentum or the entry of a second tackler.

It is manifestly absurd that World Rugby should seek to come down heavily upon what is very often the unintended consequence of good rugby practice, yet give a slap on the wrist to a guy who uses another player’s ribs as a punching bag. Yet another example of World Rugby showing zero feel for the game.

Additionally, the process itself is starting to look ridiculous. Here is the verbatim ruling on the Scots, for instance:

“In the IRB (now World Rugby) Memorandum on “Dangerous tackles”dated 8 June, 2009 the Referees Manager and Judicial Panel Chairman highlighted that “tackles involving a player being lifted off the ground and tipped horizontally and were then either forced or dropped to the ground… must be dealt with severely by match officials and all those involved in the disciplinary process.”

With respect to the sanction, the Judicial Officer deemed the act of foul play merited a low-end entry point, namely four weeks.

The Judicial Officer added one week for aggravation due to the need to deter this type of dangerous foul play.

However, taking into account mitigating factors including the players’ conduct prior to and at the hearing, their expressions of regret, exemplary characters and excellent disciplinary records, the Judicial Officer reduced the suspension to a period of three weeks in respect of each player.”

So, the punishment was four weeks, plus one, minus two. Got it?



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